Carmel Pilcher reflects on surfaces - and meaning.
Recently while I was travelling on a bus, I heard two young women chatting about the benefits of public transport.
One explained that she had the option of driving to work and could get parking for seventy dollars a week.
Both agreed that was a small price to pay but acknowledged that the savings could be put to better use.
Said one—‘just think I could buy myself a new pair of shoes every fortnight!’
My journey was taking me to a Catholic hospital where I currently work. The hospital is always a beehive of activity whether it is day or night.
When I arrive, some staff are leaving for home after caring for patients overnight, while others are arriving to take their places on the next shift.
Anxious people appear tentatively with bags; coming to the hospital for a procedure that they trust will heal their bodies or at least give them a better quality of life.
Occasionally, a heavily pregnant woman and her partner rush to the elevator hoping to make it in time before the birth of their child.
The coffee shop is a refuge for families who wait, for patients who are recovering, or staff who need an adrenalin boost and sustenance for the tasks ahead.
I have come to recognise that those I work with in the healing profession are unique.
Whether as a smiling face helping a prospective patient feel at ease, a nurse, a doctor, a chef or domestic, those who keep the building safe, a clinical educator or someone who sterilises instruments—each one seem driven by a passion to serve, to care and to bring about healing.
Each reaches out to another with a compassionate heart, and each strives to excel in their role as caregiver.
I have never much thought of hospitals before—in fact, I’ve done all I can to avoid them, only visiting out of necessity. And yet I’ve now realised what a privileged place they can be where I never cease to be surprised.
As if working long hours and tending to patients in potential life and death situations is not enough, many of these care workers go one step further.
Departments engage in fundraising—for cancer research and other health related causes; to assist the disadvantaged in our society and to support families of staff members in crisis.
But some go even farther afield in their quest to care.
Individual nurses courageously travel at their own expense to unfamiliar countries in Asia and the Pacific to set up clinics, assist with the victims of human trafficking and to run health education programs.
Doctors attached to the hospital also generously share their expertise in developing countries—establishing programs to eradicate disease, advocating on behalf of the voiceless; and volunteering their time and skills to join medical surgical teams.
Recently I saw the movie The Great Gatsby, set against the backdrop of 1920’s New York high society. It portrays the glitz and glamour of fast cars, heady opulent parties with an abundance of alcohol, food, loud music and beautiful people dressed in glittering clothes.
But it soon becomes apparent that the happiness of most of the characters seems artificial and beneath the surface they seem shallow if not empty.
In some ways, the set of The Great Gatsby is not unlike the scene in any of our major cities late on a Friday night; or reflected in the conversation overheard on the bus.
But fortunately this is only part of the picture. Those who serve in our hospitals remind us that it is only when we reach out to care, to restore dignity and respect to another through healing, that we truly achieve the gospel call to integrity and love.
In a church that is currently being battered and bruised Catholic health care is one of the shining beacons of hope.
- Carmel Pilcher is a Sydney based Josephite who works as a liturgical consultant.