Thursday, July 06, 2006

Image.. is it so important? Part 2

When I was first told that I was going to be a chaplain in a nursing home, I said No thanks. My idea of a chaplain was
that guy from MASH. No thanks, did not need to be associated with the blumbling character like him. Since moving here from the East Coast to the West Coast, I have had to deal with changes and different ideas of how things are done, but image is one thing I can't get over. It is bad enough that I have a hard time to find clothes that fit. Everything seems to be made for women that are size 0-2, which I am not. But the office places are not as business oriented as I am used to. Here, everyone is so casual. Even at church. People show up in sandals, open toe shoes, t-shirts, jeans, shorts, you name it. I have often been asked if I am one of the doctors because doctors do not tend to dress in suits as they used to. It is up to individual taste/style nowadays. It is very rare that I see a man wearing a tie at work. When I do, it is usually an older man who is likely a doctor.

When I introduce my self as chaplain, as this is the most common word/understanding, I suppose that patients aren't expecting me to look as I do. I am young, I am blond, and I don't look like a nun.

No, instead I am mistaken for medical or administrative personnel. I suppose that one would assume in a Catholic facility that one would be visited by a nun. That is if you understand the tradition. But instead
they get me and my colleagues.I tend to dress more formally. And my
patients have expectations I guess, of what a "chaplain"
should look like, act like, etc. So when I walk in the room dressed in
my usual style ..

Well they are a little surprised that this is what the chaplain, pastoral care worker looks like.. Well you know what? We are all God's people, just that there are certain expectations with certain positions. How one should act, dress or talk... we have certain expectations about what a doctor is to do, what a sales clerk is to do.. role responsibility is understood, but it is difficult sometimes to gauge as the standards change. In my line of work, it is not known what an individual's experience with organized religion has been and hence there are certain expectations about what the "religious" or "holy person" is supposed to be like. Not easy when you don't fit the mold. Some people embrace my "uniqueness" while others are wary. This still a work in progress. I am basically telling my staff and my patients that I am as God made me, and this is a good thing. God loves us as we are, but we must love and own that too. Still working on this.. but loving who I have become.

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