Heroes, Wistfulness, Roles and Faithfulness
June 11, 2020
by Robert E. Cranston, MD, MA (Ethics)
As I discussed in my last blog, COVID-19 has wrought many terrible things on the world. At the time of this blog, the virus has infected millions of people worldwide, and more than 100,000 people have died in the U.S. alone.
The viral attack hit especially in the major metropolitan epicenters, and many doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and other healthcare professionals stayed at work in the trenches, came out of retirement or traveled long distances to volunteer their services to aid those in distress. Volunteers sewed face masks by the thousands to help protect caregivers, engineers worked feverishly to produce new forms of ventilators and researchers around the world diligently sought new forms of effective treatments and vaccinations. Through it all, other essential workers continued to serve the public—truck drivers, police officers, sanitation workers and countless others—stayed on the job to make life work for the rest of us.
Media and television ads rightly hailed these public servants for their bravery, their sense of duty and their hard work. In many places in the U.S. and abroad, there was daily recognition of this service at specific times of each day with banging of pots, shouting, clapping and using other noisemakers. Ironically, and alternatively, some people who were driven by fear ostracized and even attacked identifiable caregivers as they attempted to ride public transportation or were just visible in public.
Due to their specific skill sets, some healthcare professionals watched from the sidelines as they had little to offer except telephone or virtual visits for their patients, who stayed away from hospitals and clinics for fear of catching the contagion. Others worked behind the scenes to review hospital, clinic and medical society policies on allocation of scarce resources, the duty of caregivers to care for the sick in such times of crisis and health outcomes disparities issues.
Due to geographic healthcare professional shortages, some clinic and hospital leaders informed their staff members that they faced reassignment to clinical duties outside of their areas of expertise and certainly out of their comfort zones. Some able caregivers, with skill sets appropriate to the need, were assigned fewer shifts to keep them in reserve should a major surge occur in their hospitals. They, fortunately, did not experience the anticipated major surges in most places.
There were many different roles to play as we faced this unseen enemy—some more public and visible than others. For some, our major contributions were frequent handwashing, social distancing, wearing face masks in public and giving money to help hard-hit institutions and the large number of acutely unemployed. Many of us wished we were able to provide a more hands-on form of assistance, experiencing wistfulness tinged with a mild sense of guilt and helplessness. Others made the ultimate sacrifice of laying down their own lives while caring for the sick and dying.
As I thought of all of this, two things stood out. The first was in 1 Corinthians 12. There are many parts of the body, each with different functions, yet all work together to complement each other and perform the functions needed to carry out God’s purposes. God has assigned each of us our roles, and we are to be faithful in fulfilling the tasks He has given us by doing the next obvious needed thing or waiting patiently for His direction. As Scripture tells us, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10, NIV 1984).
The second part of this, somewhat related but distinct, was the responsibility that each of us have, in whatever role God has given us, to faithfully give our best effort to fulfill those roles to His glory. While relaying the parable of the three stewards, Matthew 25 reminds us that each of us is responsible for the talents (or in our case, ministries) that the Master has given us, not for the abilities and roles He did not give us. Which brought me to “A Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition.”
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
Exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O Glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.
Our God is sovereign, omniscient and omnipotent, and He knows the situations we are facing and each of us as individuals better than anyone by far. We are to remain faithful in whatever way and situation He sees best, and we can pray that someday, as the Master said to the two faithful stewards, He will say to us, “…‘Well done, good and faithful servant…You have been faithful…Enter into the joy of your master’” (Matthew 25:23, ESV).
Bob, thanks for these kind and reassuring words. I have had mixed emotions as this health crisis has developed. I do miss being in the front lines of health care and caring for patients, but at 78 (only retired fully for 2 years) the risk group I now fall into gives me pause that I feel guilty that I am glad I am not exposed daily. I imagine other retired physicians are having the same feelings.