Thursday, December 21, 2017

On the Tradition of Healthcare: Happy Holiday

Invocation for the Saint Luke's Health System Leadership Meeting, 11/30/2017. Our System is faith-based, rooted in the Episcopal Church. In radical hospitality, we are explicitly supportive of the traditions of all our patients, families, and staff.
Welcome to the Holiday Season! But, what is a holiday?

Our word "holiday" comes from older versions of English that spoke of "holy days." Not that the idea is particularly English: here are those days in any spiritual tradition that stand out, and that call for different behavior. Work stops. Sometimes even war stops. Families gather, communities gather, and do something different for the day. It may be to feast, or it may be to fast. It may call for quiet and private reflection, or it may call for public celebration and public service. It is a day that stands out, when believers stand out, from other days.

Welcome to the Holiday Season. Looking at November, December, and into January, and looking just at on line resources, there are special observations in ten different faith traditions, and several civic observations as well – and that’s without counting separately the distinctive practices within broader traditions. Some commemorate births. Some remember special revelations. Some are as much about cultural heritage as about religion per se, although those observing would not likely make that distinction. Certainly, this period is a season of holidays – of holy days – for many different communities.

There are those holy days that we might identify in this tradition of health care. There are those "first times." I remember the first patient seen in the Emergency Room at Saint Luke’s South, not long after midnight when we first lit the sign. We remember the first heart transplant, both that initial surgery half a world away, and the first one done at Saint Luke’s. We remember new resources and facilities, from the first hospital established 130 years ago to the completion of the new Anderson County Hospital. We remember special honors – state Quality awards, or the Baldrige: days of honor and prestige.

And then there are those more personal days. Every surgery is a holy day, a special day of observation for patient and family. Every discharge is a holy day, whether it is a day of feasting or fasting. Every birth is holy day, as is every death. It is our vocation, and also our privilege to participate in these holy days, directly or indirectly, and to work to make them days of honor and celebration; to make them memorable for hope and grace and compassion and mercy.

Welcome to the Holiday Season. May each of us in our own communities celebrate, knowing that our colleagues support us in celebration. And, may each of us in our health system celebrate those other "holy days," in support of those we serve, and those we serve with. Amen.

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