By Deacon John Degano
Most of us see ourselves as good communicators. We know what we want and we ask until we get it.
Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States, has been called ‘the Great Communicator’ because he came across as simple, clear and sincere.
We would probably also agree that Jesus was the greatest communicator of all time.
But was he really? Having chosen his disciples from various walks of life, Jesus spent three and a half years telling them about God the Father and even that Jesus was his Son. He healed people who were sick. He raised the dead. He walked on water. And yet, in spite of all he did, his disciples still had no clue who he really was until after the resurrection and/or just prior to his ascension.
And then, almost as an afterthought, Jesus told them to stick around for the Holy Spirit, whose job it would be to remind them of all that Jesus had told them… (Maybe the Holy Spirit should get the title of ‘greatest communicator’ instead of Jesus?)
I know I liked to think that I was a decent communicator but that all changed when I had a recent stint in the hospital.
I was a patient and my brain was a bit muddled from the pain medication I was being given.
Nurses and assistants buzzed in and out of the room taking blood, conducting blood pressure exams, and occasionally dispensing medicine according to a specific time schedule. Precise. Professional.
I’m in a hospital, I thought. I am going to be able to relax and heal.
False. When you are admitted into the hospital there is very little time for recuperation, let alone rest or sleep. Machines beep and whirr all day and night. And, like clockwork the nurses wake you and ask repeatedly questions like “Are you taking any medications?” or “How do you feel on a scale of one to ten?” They jot something down on their clipboards and rush off to their next patient without telling you why they are asking.
On the wall in front of me was a dry erase board with the name of my charge nurse, the nurse of the day and what types of medicine and the frequency it could be taken. Every time they did something for me, they wrote the time on the board. My board said, “Pain medicine every six hours as needed.”
This board soon became my communication chart that I would refer to whenever it was time for the nurse to stop by. The only variable to this chart was the physical therapists who were there to help me get up and moving ASAP. Through them I learned to breathe through the pain, which was considerable at first.
By day two, however, my brain had recovered sufficiently enough that I asked the nurse a question: “It says, as needed. Can I take the pain medication before the physical therapist comes so that I don’t feel so much pain?
“Sure,” she said.
And never again was I bothered by the pain. But I had to ask for the medicine. The nurse never suggested it as a way to alleviate the pain I was feeling.
Who knows what other things I might I have avoided had I ‘only known’?
We are not good communicators. We only become better communicators when we are informed of our options. And are allowed to think clearly what it is that we need.
Fortunately, Jesus doesn’t leave us to our own devices. He is always there; ready to welcome us when we seek him out for the answers.
John Degano is a deacon serving at St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish in Riverside.