Recently I had the unexpected opportunity to use the services of our local emergency room and hospital. I actually had a long list of tests and procedures performed and slept in a hospital bed. Although my symptoms and condition gave us cause to be nervous, I have been fully released and the impact will not be debilitating or lasting.
During my twenty-four hours in the hospital, lots of folks surrounded me almost like my own “host of angels”. They welcomed me. None were judgmental. None criticized the reason I might be there. They all simply did their job and helped. They ran several tests to try and find my specific problem; then to find the underlying cause. In the end, they have yet to find a conclusive answer, so no one knows for sure what caused my incident The focus has been on recovery. Additional evaluation will lead me to more answers and hopefully reduce the likelihood of a recurrence.
Listening without Judgment
Mostly, people listened and tried to understand. When I first told my wife of my symptoms, she listened intently and predicted what might be wrong. She promptly shepherded me to the hospital. That recognition itself may have been a life changer. Her presence. Her understanding of who I am and how I normally act alerted her to action. Her taking me by the hand likely made a huge difference in my outcome.
The emergency room doctor was the next critical step. He listened to me as well. He looked at the symptoms. He started the evaluation process immediately. He later was praised by the other attending physicians for his gathering data, making good choices and taking action. And so it was with the rest of the staff. Listening. Listening to me speak. Listening to my heart. Carefully looking at my scans. Engaging me in conversation. How do you feel? Can you move your hand? Can you swallow? Gathering information. Making decisions based on the facts, not preconceived notions or appearances. Helping me to a positive outcome.
We Got You
Coincidentally, in his sermon that week my pastor spoke of how our church should be like a hospital emergency room. We should be welcoming to all who come, regardless of the problems or issues they might bring with them. Regardless of the sources. Like those dedicated health care providers, we should always say, “we got you.”
After all the tests, the one thing that the professionals seemed to agree on was that there was nothing I did to cause my situation. It was not caused by my lifestyle or lack of personal care. It just happened. I really had no control over the incident. I was lucky to have folks who cared about me “come to my rescue”. Perhaps one day, after more tests and observation we will know the specific cause and I may be held accountable for what I need to do differently. But for now, we simply know that I am “better” and I lived “to fight another day”.
Our Children in Need
In my hospital bed that evening, I wondered how I might be like so many of the children that come to our schools every day. Many come with issues, concerns, problems and illnesses. Like me, many of them did not create their problems. Many of their problems have roots in their home lives, their communities, their nutrition, their relationships and other factors. Some have physical illnesses. Some struggle with their mental health. Maybe their problems “just happened”.
While I was recovering from my episode, the CDC released a report on the mental health of our teenagers. The conclusions were not positive. Many of our children are feeling isolated and depressed. It seems more children are contemplating suicide. Separately, we observe our children dealing with stress caused by influences like social media and peer pressures around destructive behaviors like drugs and alcohol. Some feel the stress of trying to catch up academically after the pandemic. Like patients in the emergency room, these challenges are not unique to any age or group of children. Like patients in the ER, the children may come from all corners of the community, all races, genders and socio-economic situations.
Using My Example
And so, like always, I wonder how we can help these kids navigate their journeys. How do we help them deal with the issues that burden them? Perhaps we can take an example from my hospital visit. It all started because someone who knew me recognized that something was awry. Quickly she got me to someone who knew how to help. Along the way, people looked beyond the assumptions and welcomed me. They engaged me in conversation. They focused and listened to me – body and soul. They tried to understand. As I needed it, they comforted me. In my challenge to recover, they encouraged me. Without judgment or criticism, they “had my back”.
We know our kids have many challenges today. We know those challenges can impact their performance academically. We know those challenges can impact their behavior towards others. We know those challenges can lead them to negative behaviors. Perhaps the quality of their lives will be determined by our willingness to engage them.
I believe the power of our presence works. I believe that kids do long for connection with an adult. I believe that kids benefit from conversations. I believe that kids benefit from encouragement. They want someone to hold them accountable. And mostly, they just want someone who will care. For lots of reasons, many children do not have these desires fulfilled. That is where Be There Dads can fill the gaps. We can be those supporting characters in the students’ lives. We can welcome them without judgment. We can listen. We can care. We can get to know them. And when the time is right we can hold them accountable, if their actions deserve it. But, as my pastor so wisely observes, initially we just need to be there and say, “we got you”.
Angels Among Us
Perhaps our roles can be described by the lyrics of the old Alabama song:
… I believe there are angels among us
Sent down to us from somewhere up above
They come to you and me in our darkest hours
To show us how to live, to teach us how to give
To guide us with the light of love
They wear so many faces, show up in the strangest places
To grace us with their mercy in our time of need
There are many opportunities to volunteer in schools across our county to engage with students. Please contact your neighborhood school and ask how you can help. Or, if you want, send me a note at [email protected]