Week 3

This week I saw a very interesting mix of school and real life. In the Christian Ethics class I am taking, the material this week is on euthanasia. We visited a family who’s son suffered a gunshot wound to the head in November and is now paralyzed, can’t speak, and is minimally functional in a way that we might call normal. It is very interesting to deal with that as a real issue rather than some abstract concept. Now, this is not to say this family ever considered taking him off forms of life support, he seemed to be able to breathe on his own while we were there (he is stable enough to live at home). Nor am I trying to say that I would recommend what the discussion this week would have called passive euthanasia, that being stopping medical treatments necessary to prolong life. However, that does not mean, to be sure, that another family may not have considered that. It does not mean that a well-meaning physician or even, perhaps, a pastor would not have recommended they abstain from additional treatment at some point in time during the previous few months. Seeing ethical things like this in real life is interesting. Before the reading week, the topic was abortion. Thankfully, I did not have any first hand knowledge on one of those. But I have to sit and ask myself how will I deal with these issues once I am, hopefully, a chaplain somewhere?
Along these same lines, I met with the Navy chaplain on my base during the reading week. He and I discussed some professional development ideas and also talked about some of the unique aspects of military chaplain ministry. We talked about how some folks are “spiritual hypochondriacs” in that they always feel like something is wrong ,are always negative about life, and so forth. He told me with some real honesty that these people can be very difficult to deal with on a regular basis but that we have to be sure that their needs are being met. He also told a story about one of the most unique situations he’s dealt with. He was chaplain on a deployed ship a few years back and had a situation where a male member of the crew had sexually assaulted a female crew member. He said that on the first night he spent quite a long time in the hospital with the young lady who had been assaulted and the next day he had to go visit the young man in jail. Both of them were under his care and he had to help them both. He, again, was quite honest that this is something that would virtually never happen in the civilian counseling area, but is something that chaplains can have to work through. This was one of the more productive professional development conversations that I have had since beginning this journey.
Finally, I had to help on Thursday with some transportation of missionaries. I drove for an hour with this one good young man and it was interesting to hear him talk about things. Asking questions like “can we try to be too perfect and is that a bad thing?” Certainly I don’t really have the answer to that but my opinion is that, yes, we can try too hard to be perfect if it starts to take away from family and life in general. Our basic conversation on this was that you can try to be dedicated in following the commandments from God without trying to go well above and beyond in attempting to be perfect. He and I also talked about what he wants to do after his mission in life. He wants to be a doctor…noble career, but I find that virtually all folks who are serving want to be something like a doctor, dentist, lawyer, or upper business type. Though I would never say this to them I sometimes ask myself “doesn’t anyone just want to be a ditch digger?” Not literally a ditch digger, of course. Then again, I have to suppose that it depends on where they are from, most of the guys we have now are from urban areas in Utah (though this particular person was not) so have that mindset. I suppose a young man coming from rural Wyoming or somewhere like that would have a different idea of great work. Also, when I talk to these folks, my pride in my military service comes out. I almost always recommend folks try for military service because of the education finance benefits that come from what we do. I actually find this quite rewarding, giving brief counseling to these folks. I sometimes wonder if they even remember what I say (or perhaps if they even care) but I like to think that I have a reasonable amount of experience that I can share with folks. Hopefully they think I’m intelligent and find a little bit of value in what I say. This was certainly a good week for personal and professional growth.

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