1. Anderson, Robert C. MDiv, PhD

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AS A HOSPITAL CHAPLAIN, I'm often reminded of the natural kinship between nursing and spiritual care. In fact, my office was for many years in the same suite as nursing administration. This shared space reflects the closeness that chaplains have always felt with nurses. At times, we also share unconscious biases that affect how we interact with our patients. An experience that a nurse and I once shared brought this home for me.

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"Come to the lobby, we have a homeless man"

This page came from a nurse colleague I'd worked with for many years.


The man wore a crumpled yellow rain slicker, even though the day was clear and bright. Unshaven, clothes wrinkled, he did indeed look vagrant. My colleague said, "I've seen him here every day this week. Security is on the way."


I asked the fellow his name; he replied, "Child of God." I asked him why he was at the hospital. Unaffected and wordless, he turned toward the elevator and got on. The nurse and I barely got on behind him before the doors closed. We were going to the seventh floor.

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Child of God walked straight from the elevator into a patient's room and closed the door behind him. I'd already picked up a phone to dial security again when I heard a female patient's voice welcoming the man.


"David! My dear boy. I'm having a better day today. Come over here."


My colleague and I looked at each other, then knocked on the patient's door. The patient, known from previous admissions, had been living for 5 years with heart failure and numerous comorbidities. She'd been admitted six times this year alone and was probably in her final months of life.


The patient introduced us to her son, the man in the yellow slicker, and invited us to sit with them for a while. The patient told him about her test results, her lunch, and the doctor's report. He said nothing, just rocked back and forth in a chair by her bed, holding his mother's hand. He looked content.


After a little time had passed, I offered them a prayer. When the nurse and I rose to leave, David did too. On the way out, his mother said, "David, don't ever let anyone make fun of you. You are a wonderful child of God."


The nurse and I walked with her son back to the lobby. The bus was already there. David walked out and got on.


Giving and receiving healing

After reflecting on this experience, I realized there are many Davids that enter our medical settings. We're fortunate when these children of God teach us the real reason we all inhabit these spaces: It's the giving and receiving of healing, and never a one-way street.