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Discoveries

by Denny Hartford

The scene is a coffee shop where a brief conversation between friends is about to occur.  The set can be as simple as a table with a couple of chairs.  The action begins with Jimmy sitting down with two cups of coffee.  He’s reading a manuscript when his friend Jacob enters.

Jimmy: “Say, Jake, over here!”  (As Jake acknowledges the greeting and saunters over, Jimmy continues.)  “I saw you parking the truck so I went ahead and ordered for you.  Hazelnut with a little cream, right?”

Jacob: “Hey, thanks, Jimmy.  Do you know all my secrets?”  (He sits down and grabs the covered cup of coffee offered to him.)

Jimmy: “Well, after reading your article here I guess I know more about you than I did before.  This is really interesting stuff.”

Jacob: “ Thanks.  Do you think it captures the spirit of what we’ve done over there?”

Jimmy: “ Oh yeah - and then some!  You not only give a helpful review of the changes we’ve enacted there at the nursing home but you do a great job of encouraging people to follow through by doing the same things for care facilities in their own neighborhoods.  Really, it was terrific!”

Jacob: “Well, it’s that last part that was pretty tough to write out.  I mean, I don’t think I’d ever really tried to spell out why I got involved in this work in the first place.  And even after trying to nail it down in that article, I’m still not very clear about it.”

Jimmy: “No doubt, it’s probably a pretty complicated thing.  After all, how many people ace law school, take offers from the top firms in the state, and then make a career of shaking up nursing homes.”

Jacob: “Is that how you’d describe it, Jimmy?  Shaking up nursing homes?”

Jimmy: “Why not?  I mean, when you move in, Jake, things are never the same.  Remember, I worked at the 8th Street place before you got going on it.  Brother, you were a whirlwind.  Bringing in pets, and plants, and putting those kids to decorating the ceiling tiles, we thought all those things were cool but how did we know you were just getting started?”

Jacob: “Well, now, it wasn’t that you guys were....”

Jimmy: “Hey, Jake, I was there.  I know exactly how we were.  We were disillusioned and frustrated and even those of us who had gone into nursing home care for the best of reasons had almost lost whatever idealism we ever had.  Jacob, your efforts to bring in new programs and change the atmosphere of the place really got to us.  In fact, of everything you got going, man, the biggest change of all ended up being in us.”

Jacob: “You’re not telling the whole story though.  You know, I’d tried to institute some of those changes in three other care facilities before you guys gave me a chance.  If you hadn’t cared for those people, you’d never have let me start 'shaking things up', as you say.  It was a darn good match.”

Jimmy: “And now it’s spreading!  That’s what’s really great.  Dr. Thomas was telling me last week that several of the facilities he has rounds in have implemented some of your programs.  And, Jake, they’re working.  Residents are happier and more active; staff members are getting involved and excited.  They realize again that they’re taking care of real people, not just bed numbers.  This article is just gonna’ help spread the fire.”

Jacob: “Okay, Jimmy, that’s good news; it really is.  But you know it’s only a beginning and without serious help, we’ll never really make a breakthrough.”

Jimmy: “What do you mean?”

Jacob: “Let’s face it.  Putting color in a nursing home, developing biographies of our residents, getting them involved in planting flowers or listening to big band music - none of these things themselves can take the place of 'people involvement.'   And that’s where we’re hurting the most!”

Jimmy: “Yeah, I know, but that’s the result of changes in the system.  You and I both know that this whole thing about 'cost containment,' when you get right down to it, is nothing but 'care containment.'  Fewer staff means poorer treatment, a greater use of drugs to pacify patients, burnout of caregivers - the whole deal.  But it we can’t get the dough, we can’t ever solve the really deep-down problems, can we?”

Jacob: “Well, I don’t know.  I think we need to keep pushing the system back towards more concentrated, more compassionate care of our elderly and sick.  But, I guess, I’ve been thinking more about how to kindle a 'social fire.'  Because, Jim, if you don’t get a lot more people involved in both direct care actions and in developing political pressure, our efforts are always going to be on the surface...and probably only temporary.”  (Pause)  “That’s why that article seemed so incomplete to me.  It just doesn’t address the long-term need of getting more people involved in helping take care of our society’s needy.  I mean, where’s the mercy?  Where’s the sense of responsibility to love your neighbor?  Where’s the ministry?”

Jimmy: “Whoa, look out, man!  You’re starting to sound like a preacher.”

Jacob (Animated): “Exactly, Jimmy.  That’s exactly what I’ve been pondering the last few days.  Why not look to religion?  Good grief, it was religion that motivated most of the hospitals and nursing homes and orphanages in the first place!  And I’ve been checking out a few things from the Bible that are really something.  Here, check this out.   I’ve made a list of a few quotations that I got out of just one little book in the New Testament.”  (He pulls from his pocket a sheet of paper and hands it to Jimmy.)

Jimmy (Reads aloud.): “But prove yourselves doers of the word and not merely hearers who delude themselves....”

Jacob (Interrupts.): “That ‘doers of the word’ business involves the teachings of Jesus Christ to love God with a whole heart and also to love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.  I asked Fr. Joe over at St. Cat’s about this whole deal and that’s what he told me.  And, get this, he says that when the Bible refers to your neighbor, it even means strangers."

Jimmy: “I can buy that if it comes from Fr. Joe, I guess.  I'll grant that he’s one Christian that really tries to live like that.”

Jacob: “Yeah, I agree.  But go ahead.  Check out some more of those quotations.  I took them straight from that New Testament book.”

Jimmy: “‘This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.’  Wow - that kinda’ explains what you said earlier about religious people being the ones who started the orphanages and the hospitals.”

Jacob: “Yeah, but it sure doesn’t explain why New Testament people today ignore that particular piece of counsel.  I mean, for cryin’ out loud, you know as well as I do that about the only times you get Christians into a nursing home are the two weeks before Christmas!”

Jimmy (Laughing.): “Maybe that’s because they’ve all got stained by the world!”

Jacob: "Yeah, exactly.  Now I’m not one to pretend to be an expert on religion.  Two divorces sure don’t qualify a guy to criticize anybody else, but I can’t help but think this is the only answer we may have.  For example, what’s the only group that makes year-round visits to the Villa?”

Jimmy: “You mean those pro-life guys?”

Jacob: “Exactly!  However you feel about abortion and all, you’ve got to hand it to those guys.  They’re kind-hearted.  They're generous.  They love those nursing home folks something fierce  and they’re consistent.  I can't imagine that those people care much about being like the world. Otherwise they wouldn’t care about something like abortion.  So, whatever is going on with them, I have a hunch it’s real religion.”

Jimmy: “Okay, I see your point.  I don’t agree with them about abortion or even about how to get to heaven but, you're right, they seem to be the real deal.  There’s that other group too, you know the guys that have the caregiver program over at Lakecrest.  They also have that entertainment ministry and the adopt-a-grandparent program that gets other church people involved with befriending residents.  Those are great people too.”

Jacob: “Yes, but overall the numbers are still so small.  We need to spark that 'social fire' somehow.  Anyhow, there are a couple more of those Scriptures there.  Read away.”

Jimmy: “‘What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, and he has no works?  Can that faith save him?  If a brother or a sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?  Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.  But someone may well say, “You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”’ Good grief!  I never knew that was in the Bible.”

Jacob: “Yeah, no kidding.  I wonder how many Christians know it's there!  Do you see what I’m getting at here?”

Jimmy: “Sure.  You’re suggesting that the ‘people need’ we have in taking care of our society’s elderly could be greatly alleviated if Christians really...well, if Christians really acted like they’re told to here in the Bible.”

Jacob: “Right on!  If somehow we could use these Scriptures to hook church folks, we could put a real dent in this 'care containment' crisis.  If we could get church folks involved, we could treat nursing home residents as real people.  We could love them as our neighbors - love them more than we love ourselves.”

Jimmy: “In short, love like Jesus Christ loved.”

Jacob: “That’s an excellent way to put it.  In fact, it’s almost exactly what Fr. Joe said when I was talking to him.”

Jimmy: “Well, it sounds great, Jake, but I have a strong feeling that it’s a lot easier said than done.  If it wasn’t, wouldn't there would be a lot more Church people joining in than those guys we mentioned?"

Jacob: “Well, I thought about that.  It’s not like this idea is going to be big surprise to the Christians who are already involved in loving the folks in nursing homes.”

Jimmy: “Uh huh; I’ve got a feeling they may have already noticed these Bible quotations, don’t you?”

Jacob (Sighs heavily.): “No doubt.”

Jimmy: “Weird deal, huh?  Here we are, a lapsed Catholic and a regular 'run of the mill' pagan and we’re probably looking to the same objective that Fr. Joe and those pro-life guys are - trying to get Christians to act like Christians!”

Jacob: “And if Jesus really is alive, it’s certainly what He would want for too.”

Jimmy: “Yeah, well, let’s don’t think too much about whether or not Jesus is really alive, okay?  Those aren’t the most comfortable thoughts to someone like me, you know.”

Jacob: “Yeah, you and me both.  Sorry."  (Pause.)  "Still, there’s got to be something - or someone - that’s motivating those Christians we’ve been talking about.  I think I need to talk to explore this whole thing with a few of them.  Care to join me?”

Jimmy: “You know, Jacob, we could be playing with fire here.  I mean, starting off by trying to get some more volunteer help for nursing homes and could land us in white robes singing in a choir!”

Jacob (Laughing.): “Well, for two ol’ sinners who've been stained by the world but good, we could suffer a worse fate.”

Jimmy (Laughing too.): “Yeah, I suppose you got a point.  Set it up and I’ll be there.”

Jacob: “Great!”

Jimmy: “In the meantime, let’s get this article published, okay.  There’s one section here on page two that I really wanted to...."
ts out.