Jan 26, 2013


"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit..." John 15:5a
We stood quietly.

The hospital's social worker had stopped by the office to recommend a patient for me to visit. The story was convoluted, painful, and involved the whole family. The patient was apparently a very spiritually-minded man who would greatly appreciate a visit from a chaplain.

He was asleep when I got to his room, but his daughter welcomed me in anyway. In the low light of the ICU we conversed quietly: I explained who I was (she was very appreciative to hear my purpose for coming), she explained his condition at length, and then she continued to explain all the complicated twists and turns her family had been experiencing, relating all the ways she had been assisting those around her. There was a pause, and we stood quietly, watching him sleep.

"And how are you doing?" I asked.

She shook her head. Stress. Anxiety. Exhaustion. She talked for a long time, seemingly grateful for someone to be concerned about her well-being. I asked if she would like prayer, and with a nod she took my hand. After praying for her I looked up to see weary tears and a soul in  need of a hug. So we embraced.

I get paid to pray and hug people when they need it. This is why I love my job.

Yes, I am a psychology major.
And now for neurons.

At birth, each person's nervous system contains well over 100 billion neurons. Throughout years of development and maturation, though, many of these neurons die off. The ones that stay are the ones well connected the right way: the neurons whose axons connect with other neurons, which eventually connect with muscle to receive neuron growth factor (NGF). Without receiving NGF a neuron cannot survive, and neither can the neurons connected to it. If a neuron is connected to as many other neurons as possible but is still not receiving NGF from any of them, it and all of its connecting neurons will die.

No matter how many people we are connected to, if we do not receive nurturing, strengthening, loving support, we cannot survive and neither can our relationships. We can try to give out to others; but having received nothing, we really have nothing to give. This applies as much to daughters of hospital patients as it does to hospital chaplains and blog readers.

As my job focus (and a good portion of my joy) centers around giving out, I am reminded of the utter importance for me to receive the best sort of NGF: Love, originating from the Vine and passed on through the branches. It's what keeps us all going strong. So if you see me sporting my badge and heading to work, I'd welcome a hug! And I'll be happy to do the same for you!