Yesterday at the AIDS hospice, several new volunteers showed up at once. As a result the "usual" had a bit of an unusual feel to it. Perhaps that's why no one acted on the first red flag.
Nurse: "And the resident in Room C is actively dying. . . "
Volunteer in Cap: (interrupting and with a degree of shock) "What is that?"
Nurse: "His body is worn out. It's giving one last try at surviving but every breath is laborious. He's in the last stages and will probably die sometime this week. He's pretty bad . . . Karsi Sarcoma is covering his lower body and his legs are swollen."
Vol in Cap: "Can we see?" (moving in direction of room)
Nurse: (somewhat taken aback): "Not until after report."
Nurse continues with report and gets a call which he takes.
Vol in Cap: (to woman standing beside him) "Interesting shoes."
Ok, so in hindsight the situation is clearly strange. The Vol in Cap is not only color coordinated wearing pressed khakis and a somewhat expensive windbreaker type jacket -- something you just don't do in the bleach-based environment that is hospice life, but his tone is off, the delivery of his comments strikes me. After we break from report, I mention it to the nurse.
"I think this guy is autistic," I said. "And, by the way, he's not a part of our group."
He acknowledged that he too felt the man was a bit off by a quick smile but in the crowded hallway, could only respond. "He came in with the new guy," and then walked to Room C to introduce the Vol in Cap to the situation.
The other newbies and I went down to Room A to strip the beds and assess the cleaning needs. Most of the residents were heading to church with a pastor who regularly picks them up on Saturdays and fills a few hours of their day with worship, food, and much-needed time away from the house.
Then it happened. The nurse came to check again that indeed the Vol in Cap wasn't with any other volunteers. Seems that he had asked to wash the resident's feet. The nurse thought he meant to help clean him for his family who was coming. Instead, the water was being used for prayer, anointing, and healing. The nurse tried to explain about hospice (that it is actually for the dying) and the concerns of trying to force spiritual beliefs on someone who had not asked. The Vol in Cap ignored the nurse and just prayed louder and started calling for a resurrection.
What he got was the other nurse in charge of training -- who asked the Vol in Cap if he had received any type of orientation. When the Vol said a few minutes ago, the situation was clear. This was no true volunteer. He was asked to leave, then told to leave, then ordered to leave.
His reaction was to drop to his knees in the hallway, rebuke those who would exorcise him from the house, and then call them out as evil . . . though he did add that he was still supposed to love them.
One nurse responded, "I love you too but you're still leaving."
When our unwelcome guest made it outside I had the strangest visual juxtaposition before me. The pastor who regularly ministers to people who don't make it easy to do so (many of the residents are from the streets, some have mental problems, and lots are demanding) was loading up his van.
So before me were two ministers -- one answered the question of what would Jesus do with judgment, unsolicited ministrations, and obligation rather than compassion. The other expresses his faith with his continuing presence.
Supposedly both represented the religious world -- but they were worlds apart. And as for me and my house? ... We're going with the guy in the van,