Wednesday, May 25, 2011

a prayer against violence

"We bring to you all who have been affected by physical, sexual, political, and emotional violence.

We pray for those who have died violently because of hatred, mistrust or wanton destruction: 
Heal the violence that may also have battered our souls.

We pray for those who have suffered abuse, injury or death for reasons of prejudice and fear: 
Open our hearts that we may find joy in our differences.

We pray for the children whose innocence and trust has been shattered by sexual predators: 
Give them strength and courage to face the days ahead.

We pray for all who have been survivors of sexual violence:
Heal their shame.

We pray for those whose outstretched hands have experienced only bruises and broken bones: 
Help us to hold them with hands of love and tenderness.

We pray for those whose self-inflicted wounds and for those who do not hear their cries: 
Send them messengers of your grace and love.

We pray for those who are assaulted by words,
Heal them and make them whole.

We pray for those whose lives are lived in fear and dreaded expectation of the next attack upon them: 
Wrap them in your arms of compassion.

We pray for those who have sought love only to find hatred in return: 
May they come to know your unconditional love.

We pray for those who are too angry or too hurt to give voice to their own prayers: 
Bless their anger against you and hear the pain in their heart.

We pray for those who are neglected, abandoned or hungry: 
May they find a safe refuge and a community who will love them.

We pray for the men and women, both young and old, and in between, who may never again know your gift of intimacy because of the violence they have suffered: 
Help them to learn to trust again.

We pray for the families and friends of those who have been wronged for we know they, too, bear some of the hurt, rage and anger: 
Unite them in love that their bonding may become a source of strength.

We pray for ourselves that we may be aware of the violence within ourselves and within the culture we live: 
Help us to return to your path of love.

Most blessed God,  whose will it is for us to live a life free of violence:
We have brought before you this night those who have suffered through the actions of others; those who bear on their bodies and in their bodies the scars of anger and the wounds of hate.
Be with them in your compassion and strengthen them in your love.
Heal the wounds that afflict them and the fears that hold them captive.
Strengthen, too, all families and friends who care for survivors that through their love and support your healing grace may be made manifest.
We pray your blessing upon us who are gathered here and upon all survivors of violence and abuse, especially those whom we have named and remembered this night.
As we proclaim that another world is possible as we pray the prayer of Jesus Christ, who experienced you as:
Our Father, who art in heaven…"

By The Rev. Patricia Sandra Horton, Birmingham, Alabama, USA

Monday, May 9, 2011

things that give hope

i often imagine the worst for what happens to someone when they leave the hospital.  i wrongly assume the point where i meet them is part of an immutable broken path.  

16 year-old girl, second-time pregnant. rumors float that father of the baby is her father too. 

13 year-old boy, bullet-shattered shoulder blade.  step-mom comforts. birth-mom incarcerated.

45 year-old man, heroin-infected spine. discharged to homelessness and a "business meeting." 

i fill in the blanks of their futures along the trajectory of brokenness.  it's easy to do when you see others with similar pasts continuing to live in places of despair.

at covenant house i learned to imagine hope.  

i knew her from the children's hospital.  an infection left untreated too long.  we suspected abuse and neglect.  no family visited her.  i imagined single motherhood. minimum wage or welfare. domestic violence.  then i saw her at covenant house. a step toward hope.  safe housing. job hunting. educational support.  maybe a future of something other than the worst case scenario.  maybe a chance at life.

i knew him from the trauma bay. bullet in his arm; no major injuries.  i imagined another bullet would find him soon enough.  then i saw him at covenant house, struggling to begin a new life.

i don't know what happened after covenant house for either of them. i do know that because of their courage, i am able to imagine things other than destruction and downward trajectories when i see broken points in the lives of the people i care for. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

things that break us

slow steps up to the out-of-the way call room.  i will my pager to stop beeping so i can get at least three hours of sleep before morning rounds.  

danskos slide off my feet as i pull the blanket i stole from 3 West over my tired body.  out the window, i hear a siren.  it is brief, a quick cry, as if its operator isn't sure if the situation is an emergency or not.  my heart sinks, knowing what is next.  pager rings.  

feet slide back into danskos while i walk back down the stairwell.  i enter the code to enter the emergency room, and stumble into the trauma bay.  

beautiful athlete lies on the table.  a small hole in his chest, ringed with a black burn that can only be caused by a bullet.  the trauma protocol has already started as i pull plastic booties up to my knees.  i know the blood will flow soon enough.  

everything happens quickly.  a scalpel. a saw.  soon beautiful athlete's ribs are detached from his body.  blood pours onto the floor as skilled hands search for the source of the bleeding.  a hole in the heart.  staples quickly close the hole but the life blood of beautiful athlete is on the floor and no staple can reverse that.  a defeated trauma team calls time of death for beautiful athlete.  

a large needle is placed in my hand.  med student, sew him back together.  a baseball stitch will do.  impatient nurses hurry me along as i imprecisely reattach ribs to belly.  the skin under my stitches will never heal.  i stitch simply so his family can see him reassembled. 

a final knot is tied.  again i trudge back to the call room, again i will the pager on my waist to silence.  inside an open door i see beautiful athlete's family listening as trauma surgeon tells them the news.  i feel petty for craving sleep while beautiful athlete's mother grieves the short life of her 22-year old son. 

local newspapers never give details of the shooting.  simply name and age of beautiful athlete, and the cross-street where he took his last breath.  

at home the next morning, despite the overwhelming exhaustion, sleep will not come.  over and over i see my stitches, running like a baseball, across beautiful athlete's chest.  i wonder what hope looks like in the face of street violence. a fatigued grasping for meaning, i google some variant of hope, street violence. the first hit brings up words written by paul two millenia ago: i am convinced that neither death nor life...can separate us from the love of God.  my eyes flood with tears.  i hope desperately that this is true.  

in the retelling, a friend offers words of comfort. maybe your stitches were part of the redemption of the world.  maybe, if we believe our bodies are raised someday, it is your stitches that made him ready for that day.