Holy Time with a Shooting Victim ~ Guest Contributor, Lisa Gaston
When I arrived, I found myself at the bedside of a shooting victim. I had no idea that Jesus was about to remind me that whatever I do to someone overlooked or ignored, it is to Him.
I work as a chaplain at a community hospital - the local trauma center for the greater area. Late one night I was called to the emergency department. It is called a “trauma,” meaning a large number of staff from all departments descend on the room, assess the damage and decide what treatments need to begin. Typically, there could be more than a dozen staff members in the room. When the trauma involves a shooting, the hospital is “locked down;” no one is allowed in or out of the emergency department aside from staff. Police arrive. Adrenalin is pumping and you have no idea what you are about to see.
My first job in the midst of all the activity is to find an opening and get to the head of the bed, get the person’s name and find out who they want me to call for them. While waiting for my turn, I am sending up prayers for safety, discernment in diagnosis, and calm for everyone. I pray for the presence of the Holy Spirit and all first responders.
When I could get up to “Cody” and ask whom I could call for him, he wanted me to call his mom. He told me she couldn’t answer her phone because she worked nights as an aid in a nursing home, but I should leave a message and she would call back when she could.
It became clear that this young man lived a life and was engaged in activities for which I have little reference in my own life- committing crimes, taking drugs and fighting. Lucky for him his injury was minimal. After immediate examination; the room cleared quickly. He was sent for scans to rule out injuries to internal organs. I waited for him to return, to be a support to him, and his mom, should she call. When he returned and results came back that there was no further damage, the wound was sutured. At this point, I could have left, as there was really nothing else “to do.” But he was waiting for his mom to call back and come and pick him after her shift. Somehow, I felt for this 30-something-year-old, who had not been dealt an easy hand and who had filled in the empty spaces in the ways he knew how. If he were my son, I would have wanted someone to wait with him, so I stayed. I pulled up a chair to the side of his bed, sat down and waited with him.
I saw his neck and arm tattoos, and asked him to tell me about them, a favorite conversation starter for me. He quickly turned to tell me about his time in prison and the choices he had made that landed him there. How different his life was from my own children. And yet, how sweet and kind he was, the same as mine. He talked about how his faith and how his knowledge of the Bible grew while he was incarcerated; and pondered how he might continue that journey.
When his mother finally arrived, she was scared and worried- as any mother would be- and we prayed in thanksgiving for his very life, and as any mom would – that he would find a new way. I was reminded that night, how quickly I can judge others, and how setting aside “doing” led me to “being” with Cody. One of the least of these.
Lisa Gaston is a wife, mother and grandmother. She is ordained in the United Church of Christ and currently works as a hospital chaplain. She also loves quilting, creating, and making music.