Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Need a boost?

Today I was leaving a local nursing home after visiting a church member.

I had read a psalm to her, prayed for her, signed the cross on her forehead. This was the first time she opened her eyes to me and attempted to speak; she's recovering from a stroke. I felt as if we'd made a connection today for the first time.

I felt good about the visit.

This experience is what Dr. Edward Hallowell, a Harvard-educated psychiatrist and active Episcopalian, describes as a "human moment," a point of compassionate contact between two humans.

I first read about human moments in an essay of Hallowell's in The Harvard Business Journal and later in his books, Human Moments and Connect.

As I was leaving the nursing home, I spotted a man ahead of me in a wheel chair; he was moving slowly. Right behind him was a nurses' aid in her dull maroon uniform. Her shift over, she was rushing to get by the man and out the door.

She opened the glass door, which nearly slammed in the man's face, and never even looked back.

"Would you like me to get the door?" I asked him.

"If you don't mind?"

I held the door as the man rolled through.

"Are you a minister?" he asked.

I nodded.

"My name is Elmer," he told me, "and I'm the only Elmer here." He smiled.

As he rolled into the sunshine on the front porch, I said goodbye. "Enjoy the sunshine," I said. Again, he smiled.

This was another of the human moments of the day. In my prayers tonight, I'll thank God for them.

For a moment, I was transported from my small world of thoughts, and worries, and things to do into the world of a fellow human, Elmer. We connected for an instant in a few words and smiles.

And it felt good.

For a lift, try a human moment. It's as easy as "hello," a smile, a simple act of kindness, of Christ-like love.


  1. Ken,

    Wow, talk about living in the moment. Thanks for sharing. Barb W

  2. As a nursing home worker, I understand your impression during the visit. It seems that mainly during shift change hours it gets chaotic, and as workers we don't realize that residents are observing our anxiousness to get out of the place that we call "their home". This is a good reflexion. Thanks Father Ken. PS: Make sure the resident you are helping to go out is actually allowed to get out of the building without supervision.. you know.. liability :-)


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