Sometimes I find myself in strange and interesting places…
I’ve mentioned before that I started volunteering at the Behling Simulation Center at our Medical School–it’s a place where students can participate in simulated situations that they might encounter in a medical setting: an ER, a urgent care, an office setting, etc.
Essentially I’m an actor, or a “confederate” as they like to call us. They have me play different roles in the situations and the students have to figure out what’s going on? For example, I played a role where the students had to inform me that I had lung cancer and I had to react to the news and they had to deal with me. Or I’ll be a parent of a patient who is a mannequin–but one with a pulse and a heartbeat and who has eyes that blink. (Like my pal pictured to the right here)
The people I work with there are some of the most positive people I’ve ever worked with. They trust me with a lot. The events of each scene are confidential so I can’t say anything about them, but suffice it to say that the debriefing sessions are quite interesting and sometimes they are an opportunity for me to add some thoughts and actually provide some ministry to people who need an ear or some encouragement.
Just as the students in gross anatomy dissect the human body and are dissected themselves at times–the simulations can bring to light much about one’s self. I know I have learned much about myself in this new ministry to both staff and students. It’s interesting because in this case I am not being “myself”–I’m playing a role. The real me shows up in debriefing the cases where I might be able to mention how I felt when they spoke to me or add something about how a chaplain might be a good person to talk with about a case.
I like doing this because I’m not always aggressive about simply walking up to students and talking to them. When I worked with dying patients in Calvary Hospital in the Bronx I found it to be a similar experience. I used to fill water bottles there to break the ice. Just walking in to someone’s room and start talking to them seems a bit awkward and maybe even a bit creepy. Because of my middle aged-ness, I often feel the same way about walking up to students or even having a display table out. I need a bit of an icebreaker because I don’t wear a collar and I’m not there age–so there’s a wall that often gets put up. So this summer, I’ve taken it upon myself to try to get past this by developing distinct things to do to engage people in.
I like having distinct things to do even at a party because I’m shy in large crowds in general unless I have something to do. I like playing a role in this instance because it places me in a particular situation, a needed role where interaction is neither awkward or based in an ulterior motive. It’s simply helpful and the students appreciate me immediately and it then gives me an opportunity to open further conversations with them.
So today I’m particularly grateful to my colleagues in the simulation center–Jeff, Scott, Fritz and Tom–the coolest guys ever. They have taught me well and enabled me to feel at home by NOT being myself. Rather, they have made me for themselves to use for their purposes and in so doing, have allowed me to be gift to those they teach and in turn, offer more than a role.
I offer them all that I am. My imagination, my humor, my creativity, my guidance and of course, my love.
And God shows me again that indeed it is more than enough. I don’t have to be anything more than who I am, but sometimes being someone else works out just as well.