So today out first year Medical and Dental students took their first big exam in gross anatomy. For longtime readers, you’ll remember that each year I give out these little stress dolls to the students to keep them loose:
He doesn’t look like ME at all. But isn’t he cute? Scrubs, big teeth for the dental students and he’s seriously helpful.
So why do I do this? Well, I know my role as the chaplain of the gross anatomy lab is basically to keep people calm and loose. All of these students have been the smartest student in their class since they were like…well…five years old! And let’s face facts, each time I walk in there I know that this is the closest I’ll ever be to the admissions office of a Medical or Dental School.
But we all have gifts and I know that I have something to offer everyone I serve–even these super smart medical and dental students.
I disarm them with the stress guy–he’s goofy and fun. I chuck them to them as they pass by and it gets them to calm down and simply relax. Once in awhile someone takes things way too seriously and says “no thanks” or “I’m good” and they dive back into their notes. And that’s cool too. For me, the experience is a serious study in human behavior. Some folks have their iPod in ears and they don’t want anyone to get in their zone. Others are mixing it up and telling jokes. Others are drilling each other with names of muscles and arteries. It’s amazing to watch.
Today, I really felt like the chaplain when the second wave of Medical Students showed up for their test. They have to wait for the first section to finish and they get really antsy. So stress guy is a big help to a good deal of them. Last year one student set up a little game where they tried to knock one stress guy doll down with another one. But this year’s group took the cake with stress relieving creativity:
All in all, it was so much fun. But at the same time, I knew my role and served the needs of the students creatively. And it gets them to open up a bit more to me as well. It even opens them up to one another. One dental student decapitated his stress guy when we were running low on them so that his colleague could use the head while he used the body. He looked at me and said:
“See! I shared! We’re really a team here!” I laughed heartily with them and it brought everyone’s stress level down even further.
A female student who I won’t name to protect her anonymity, started to worry as the time got close to the test. I stood with her for a few minutes and simply comforted her fears. I reminded her that she’s really smart and always has been and just because everyone else here is smart it doesn’t mean that she won’t be successful. The first test is very comprehensive, but it’s not incredibly difficult, according to the other students I’ve been with. I reminded her of that and made her take a deep breath and made her squeeze the heck out of the stress guy who she just loved.
At one point I entered the exam area and she was sitting at a rest stop. She gave me a knowing glance and then a small smile. At the test’s conclusion, she was one of the first people I saw and she thanked me for helping her stay calm. She had thought that she had done pretty well. And I’m proud to just play a small role in that.
Kevin, who works in the lab, was watching the Hackey Sack game break out. An athlete himself, who knows how important exercise is to relieve stress, looked at me and said: “Y’know, anything you can do to help them de-stress is awesome. That little thing was a great idea.”
The lab’s director, Dr. Dannenhoffer is a big fan of “those little cupie dolls” as he calls them and has praised me for the idea before. But today, he said to me, “OH good! You’re here, calming them down today!” That really made me feel like a necessary part of the team. Dr. DiLugos another member of the staff said, “Hope you don’t have to pick anyone up off the floor today–but I’m glad you’re here just in case you do!” Then we laughed a bit.
There’s an old spiritual maxim that I try to live by and it is simply this:
“Ministry is about doing small things with great joy and thoughtfulness. And then praying that God provides the rest.”
And today friends, God did just that.
For them… and for me.