At the dawn of social media, friends sent me a lot of selfies and pet photos. Nice. Now they add a few words to them or call, and I feel better in touch. You may have had a similar experience.
This presumed march from self to thou may teach us something about our field: the value of reaching out more thoroughly and often to colleagues and chaplains-in-training. This reaching out can be personal, as with maturing social media or mentoring in the old style of my generation; formal, as in speaking or writing; and strong or subtly persuading others to tell what they have learned or felt during chaplaincy.
Many of us already do write or speak about our jobs to colleagues. There are Chapter, regional, and annual meetings of chaplain organizations and media such as CPSP’s Pastoral Report and this Chaplain’s Report that reach both colleagues and candidates for chaplaincy. They need contributions and nourishing with up-to-date information in our changing environments.
Our reports needn’t be works of literature or profound lectures. We are all not Fitzgeralds or Freuds. The difficulties of communicating, especially writing, may be overrated, as in speaking or mentoring. And I think that the value of new information lies not only in the self but also in the thou. People want to hear about the experience, but also what you have learned from it.
Here’s an example of my own experience. While still in journalism school, my editor sent me to the site of an accident in which a boy died, buried in a shack that held heaps of salt. I wrote the 4W’s (who, what, where, when) and the how demanded by the teacher. But not my tears and those of his family. Later, as a “hardened” reporter, I covered a train-car crash of an elderly couple at a railroad crossing. “There’s blood over the tracks,” I phoned my cigar-smoking city editor. “What did you expect, ink? he rasped, “Go interview the family.” What did I learn later to do? I took a job in technical writing and stayed in that field almost 40 years before examining my feelings during CPE.
Chaplains have many stories to tell like mine, and others more to the point, that will help CPE students, their mentors, and colleagues. I urge you to tell them.
I suggest not to just look on, as the mole did, in Kenneth Grahame’s purple prose’d “Wind in the Willows” —
“Never in his life had he seen a river before — this sleek, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, grabbing things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves free, and were caught and held again. All was a-shake and a-shiver — glints and gleams and sparkles, rustle and swirl, chatter and bubble … and when tired at last, he sat down on the bank, while the river still clattered to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.”
Instead, please send your selfie with a message to your colleagues and students.
Retired Clinical Chaplain