After very little fanfare and much confusion, I am a chaplain at Grady Memorial Hospital. I'm not sure how to describe the monstrous place, except to say that it is indeed monstrous. The building is huge. There are people everywhere. Anxiety regularly runs high, and right now funding is running extrememly low. I know that Grady is in the middle of a financial crisis and there are lots of changes going on, but I can't quite tell how much of the energy there is because of the imminent lay-offs and cutbacks and how much is just the day-to-day attitude of this very vital place.
It's overwhelming. I can't tell yet what's the most disturbing. Right now, Grady is just a mass of people and smells and cries and pain and ENERGY. But somewhere caught up in all that energy are threads of illness and brokenness, inequity, injustice, homelessness and addiction, strained relationships and faithful ones, grief and almost unendurable eons of waiting for help or information or healing. If I go on about it for too long, I think, all this might be crushing.
Our group of interns is taking over for a group of residents who have been here since August, and they are exhausted. The grind of grief and diet of adrenaline has visibly taken its toll on these chaplains. I'm glad I've only signed up for three months. ("You can do anything for 10 weeks," right, Dad?)
Still, all of this overwhelming anxious energy seething from every floor of the hospital is, I hope, a good thing. It is life. It certainly isn't life as I'm used to it, but everybody's different, I suppose. This is life in all forms, all shapes and all degrees (if there are such things). This week, I prayed with an unconscious incarcerated burn victim, a brain-dead young man, anxious people about to have surgery, worried mothers visiting their children, and incredibly tiny babies fighting for every breath. I talked with drunken homeless men, anethesized evangelicals, hospitable staff, HIV-positive women, and families from South Georgia camped out in an ICU waiting room - suitcases, Triscuits and all - waiting on their son to come out of a coma. There is so much life here, intersecting and piling on top of itself, that I just don't know what to make of it.
I'm not sure if I should sort it out or just dive on in.
I'm on call Monday night, so it looks like diving in might be my only option.