Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Jesus Falls for the Second Time

The following is a reflection about the seventh station of the cross prepared by Gina Bartindale, a Volunteer living in the McKinley Park Community. Gina is working as a nurse at Erie Family Health Center and she shared her story at Amate House’s Stations of the Cross evening of reflection on April 5, 2017.

Even with help, Jesus falls and stumbles to the ground a second time, under the weight of the cross. There he lay, face down in the dirt, sweat dripping from his brow, reopening the bloody cuts on his knees. Oh, what he would do to have it all just end here; but he is only halfway to Calvary. 

Reflecting on this station, I can’t help but imagine Señora Lupe, weighed down by the weight of injustice and suffering; the broken systems in this country cause her to fall once again. Her five year old son has special needs and receives care at the clinic I work at, Erie Family Health. She is a single mom who migrated to the US illegally several years ago. She is going to court next week, at risk of deportation back to Mexico. Lupe knows that her son’s medical needs are complex and that he needs to remain here in the states to receive adequate care for him. She sits in the exam room with tears in her eyes as she asks my favorite pediatrician if she will be her son’s guardian if she has to leave him.

Lupe is weighed down by poverty, a frustrating healthcare system, a language barrier, racism, the legal system… how could anyone remain standing under all that weight? Other patients have similarly fallen under different injustices and suffering that absolutely break my heart some days. I think of the parents who recently arrived from a refugee camp in Myanmar where they were highly persecuted; after arriving at our clinic with their newborn baby, we struggle to even find an interpreter that can speak their rare language of Rohingya. A teenage, homeless mom is weighed down by cyclical poverty and mental illness. She tells me she feels like a failure, falling deeper into depression, when her 6-month-old baby is hospitalized with pneumonia.

These patients have all fallen onto their knees, exhausted, face down in the dust like Jesus, a demoralizing message to them that they are just that: dust in the wind. And while we are all mortal and will return to dust one day, my time as an Amate House nurse has confirmed my belief that it is our calling as humans on Earth to remind one another of our dignity. We are all so much more than dust; we are all humans worthy of love and respect because we are made from the same dust, in the same image of Jesus Christ.

There have been so many phone calls or appointments this year where I honestly felt helpless. I can recommend home remedies for a patient’s cough or teach a new diabetic how to use their insulin, but I rarely have the opportunity or the knowledge to address the deeper injustices or broken systems that are affecting and weighing down my patients. I often try to recall a phrase from the Oscar Romero prayer that gives me encouragement: It says “We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.”

Gina shares her Stations reflection at St. Maurice Church in McKinley Park.
So I have been slowly learning that the “something” I can do and am perhaps am called to do is give patients dignity through accompaniment; I still have a ways to go until I reach that doing it “very well” part. I can listen to a patient on the phone vent about topics unrelated to her health. Or I can sit with a patient during a home visit and let her just cry about her new, scary diagnosis of stomach cancer. I can give patients dignity by being present. In return, my patients’ perseverance and strength inspires and teaches me daily.

I believe we are called to come next to our brothers and sisters when they are fallen to help them carry the weight of their crosses and burdens—not for each other, but with each other, lifting them out of the dust.

I have had my own share of falls this year in community: anxiety, exhaustion, Durango breakdowns, and literal falls on my tailbone. In the last couple of months, I have realized that I must let others--especially those in my community-- help carry my crosses; when I lean on them, they are always there to hold me up. Recently, when I was feeling helpless about an old pal struggling with homelessness and lack of faith, my own faith felt fickle. I expressed to a housemate that I didn’t see the point in even praying for her anymore. He texted me every day and night for the next week when he was praying for my friend since he knew I didn’t have the energy. He was a true prayer warrior for both of us, accompanying and re-energizing me and my faith. What a gift to have other people to walk beside us and lift us up, if we let them-- and maybe even lend a cute piece of clothing or bring us a cup of coffee along with it.

When Jesus falls for the second time, He is even more discouraged and broken than the first. The weight of the cross feels even heavier, thinking about how much farther he still has to go. But the hope of the 7th station is that while he falls again, he also gets up again. He keeps going. And he keeps going all the way to Calvary for Señora Lupe, for the refugee parents, for the homeless teen mom, for me, and for each and every one of us here. In the dust and mess of injustice and suffering, there is still hope.

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