This post starts off talking about babies, but it’s really about prisons and what you can do about them. Actionable items at the end!
Our Lord Jesus Christ breaking every chain.
Having a baby is an emotional roller coaster, even when you’re not the one whose body was playing host. When our twins were born six weeks early in January, one was in the NICU for one week, one for three. Shortly after the first came home, they moved the little one to a different part of the hospital for babies who were considered low-risk. We did not think much of the low-risk part of the NICU. The main part was a much more loving environment. There were more babies, more family members, and it seemed to us, more attention from the very gifted nurses. The low-risk ward seemed very much like an afterthought. It was a converted patient room on the recovery floor with six or seven babies in incubators tended by two nurses. With a few notable exceptions, we did not find them to be as good as the nurses in the main ward. There were fewer family members coming and going. It seemed that our little baby was just in a glass cage all day, except when we were able to come take him out. I speak of how it seemed, not of how it was. Objectively, the care he received was perfectly adequate. Continue reading
During my final year at Stanford, our newly appointed police chief died suddenly and without warning. Chief Marvin Moore was the first African American to hold the position. I found the officers devastated when I went to visit the department and offered whatever help I could. It had been their good fortune that they never lost a serving officer in or out of the line of duty for as long as anyone could remember.
One of the reasons I have not said more about last week’s carnage is that, at the moment, my most charitable response is restraint. You see, a few weeks ago, when I finally got the physical strength to visit my ailing father in the nursing home in Cleveland, I was stopped by a police officer for no apparent reason–other than perhaps a Soundex algorithm gone awry. (Google it.) I pulled up into a gas station so that he would not have to stand in traffic and rolled down the window. He yelled, at the top of his lungs, “ARE YOU DRUNK? SHOW ME YOUR LICENSE AND PROOF OF INSURANCE. WHERE ARE YOU GOING?”
I’ve got several blog posts in progress: two on transplant ethics and one on Between the World and Me, but as you can imagine, today I am thinking about the police, with whom I had only had neutral and positive experiences until Thursday night. And even to claim that experience as mine is pretty far-fetched. It is probably best to call it a glimpse of police intrusions into daily life that I have been shielded from. That being said, I was present, and it made me uncomfortable, and it made me feel less safe. So what happened?
We had dinner plans with a friend. We went to one of our favorite restaurants, which happens to have bad acoustics, and it was very crowded. After we sat down, a non-white family with a small child sat near us. The little boy was about two years old, and he seemed pretty cranky. He let out several unhappy, loud wails; his parents tried appeasing him and comforting him, but he was not having it. The little boy was loud and disruptive to everyone’s meals, but the parents were parenting, and what else can you ask them to do? I felt bad for them.
Yesterday was my first Sunday serving as a full-time pastor of my congregation. It was our first Sunday without the pastors who had led the congregation for 19.5 years. It also provided my first opportunity to preach to the congregation in many months. This is what I told them.
Everyday Terror: Initial reflections on the Orlando shooting
Working in a hospital I’ve come to fear the everyday activities that just don’t end well: riding bikes, taking walks, driving, taking the stairs, etc. Any one of these activities can suddenly go awry and land you in the ER. These everyday activities can be punctuated by unpredictability—a car comes out of nowhere and hits a bicyclist, a pedestrian is hit by a car on a routine walk to the grocery store, sock feet on wooden stairs leads to head injuries. I admit, I have not found a good way to cope with these everyday traumas. I’ve put off making my bicycle my primary form of transportation because it just seems too dangerous, I am a more careful driver, and in general I have become more risk averse. I think of this as the effect of seeing and sitting with patients who happen to be the outlying edges of the bell curve with regard to accidental trauma.
In the corridor leading from the classrooms in Demerest Hall to St. John’s Chapel are two banners, right next to one another, that I pass on a daily basis. One depicts an interracial handshake with the words from the New Testament, “Love casts out fear.” The other features three dancers beautifully posed in silhouette with a verse from a beloved Shaker hymn, “Dance, then, wherever you may be.” Their colors have faded with time. Their message of hope is timeless. Indeed, they took on a deeper meaning for me today when I passed them once again to enter the chapel, light a few candles, and pray for the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting and all who mourn and care for them.
[Warning: The following post contains spoilers for Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens, along with serious references to the geography and religions of the Star Wars universe. Caveat lector.]
I saw The Force Awakens opening night. I liked the movie a lot, but as the credits rolled I was pensive and troubled.
Don’t get me wrong. Unlike so many outspoken critics, I wasn’t bothered by the many parallels between the original Star Wars and this latest installment. Sagas, after all, are often iterative. That’s the nature of human storytelling. I quite enjoyed the mixing of familiar characters and tropes with new characters and twists. So what was my problem?
I still plan to offer several more reflections on Between the World and Me, but I also feel compelled to offer some commentary and framing to two articles on transplants that appeared last week: the first uterus transplant in the USA and the news that desensitizing kidney recipients could allow for unmatched kidney donation. I’ll take them in theological order: the first shall be last and the last shall be first.
Desensitizing kidney recipients in layman’s terms means to make their immune systems less hostile to the transplanted kidney prior to transplantation. The upshot is that a desensitized patient could receive a kidney from a donor who is not a very good match. (If you want to know more about matching donor and recipient, read the article linked above.) The NYT headline above shouts the good news that now there is a method of desensitizing that allows a person in need of a kidney to receive one from ANY donor. That is great scientific and medical progress! And yet, like with any progress, there is also a cost, and this time the cost is social. Continue reading
Nazi book burning.
My translation of Oskar Maria Graf’s 1933 open letter, “Verbrennt mich!” Kristel and I read this in a German class forever and a day ago. The current political and cultural climate in the United States made me think of it.