Pastoral Care Prelude

Yesterday I was downtown at my future place of employment for a follow-up to my pre-employment physical.  Following the follow-up, I returned to the train station where I sat on a bench and patiently waited for the next train home.  And as I sat, reading A Primer in Pastoral Care, I heard the young woman seated to my right say into her cell phone, "Tell Steve to call a temp.  I’m not coming to work.  I passed out on the train this morning and I’m going home."  After a few more minutes of small talk, she hung up.

"OK," I think to myself.  "I’m going to be a chaplain in a less than two weeks, and here is a wonderful opportunity to provide care and support to someone.  Let me give it a whirl."

"I couldn’t help but hear that you passed out on the train.  May I get you a pretzel or some juice?"

"No thank you.  I got something to drink.  Thanks, though."

"That must have been frightening, to pass out on the train."

"Oh gosh, yes.  I feel so stupid, but you know, it was just so crowded and I just felt it coming.  I tapped the person’s shoulder in front of me, and said, ‘I think I’m going to faint," and then I passed out."

"It’s not stupid at all.  That was really smart to alert someone on the train.  Good thing you’re safe now."

And so the conversation continued for a few more minutes.  I offered typical CPE responses that acknowledged her experience and affirmed her feelings, allowing her to further express her feelings.  8 years away from my last CPE, and about 5 years since my last pastoral role (as a youth worker), I felt pretty good about myself.

Then, a gentleman seated to my left joined the conversation, warning that fainting could be a sign of a brain aneurysm.  He told us the story of his sister who had a few fainting spells, and then died a few weeks later.  Not quite a comforting story. 

His words didn’t seem to have too much affect on the young woman.  Nonetheless, instantly I felt bad for not having more control over the situation and allowing someone else to come in and change the tone of the conversation.  Yet, I’m not sure what else I could have done.  Sometimes, these things just happen. 

And with 9 months of chaplaincy ahead of me, I’m sure this is just the beginning . . .

About Chris Duckworth

Spouse. Parent. Lutheran Pastor. National Guardsman. Political Junkie. Baseball Fan.
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