Thursday, January 19, 2012

We're Not Here to Eat Steak

"We're Not Here to Eat Steak," says an elderly woman I'm visiting bedside.

Minutes earlier, she asks how I became a chaplain. I pause then say, "As years go by, it feels more and more like I was led to it." "What did you do before?," she asks. I tell her and connect the dots of how one journey flowed into another linked by questions beginning with "why?" and later, "how?" She nods her head knowingly, then pauses in silence. I ask her, "and you?" She looks up and directly meets my gaze. Not quite smiling, still her eyes shine with piercing clarity.

"I was a child in a concentration camp, lost my parents, saw children suffering." Now I meet her gaze, gentle and direct. She continues with a sigh, "I wasn't one of those who asks, 'why?' Some questions you don't ask because there are no answers. Instead, I asked, "what can I do?" Our eyes lock in shared recognition. "I have worked with children all my life. Children suffering. Every day I was happy to work, seeing them." She pauses again. I say, "Sounds like you've been happy to do something for those children."

She smiles and with a tone resounding of conviction says, "I'll tell you something. It fell into my lap. There are no coincidences. We're not here to eat steak." She adds, "I rarely criticize. When I see a group of people complaining, I say I cannot stay here. I cannot go down there. I need to look up and ask, 'what can I do?' I respond, "Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do." She replies, "thank you for visiting me."