Updated: August 25, 2021 06:31 AM GMT
Religious volunteers share their experiences at a hospital for Covid-19 patients after work. (Photo courtesy of tgpsaigon.net)
In philosophy, one of the three sources of reflection is curiosity. Man is an infinitely open being, always aspiring to discover and understand, and never being satisfied.
I am no exception and always ask questions. But, like most other people, I easily accept prejudiced assertions, agree with the experiences I observe, gain knowledge from others and books, and hold the opinions of the crowd without the correct basis. I see them as truth. As Nathanael told Philip, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
I was assigned to voluntarily serve at a hospital for Covid-19 patients in the most serious condition. At first I was a bit curious due to the knowledge I had before I set foot in the hospital. In my mind, there was nothing good about the field hospital; it was a place full of pain and tears, no one wants to get in but everyone — whether patients or medical staff — wants to get out as quickly as possible. I imagined a gloomy picture woven with dark and deadly colors.
But after four days of observing, collaborating with other people and serving patients, I have seen various colors in the picture of disease.
Although danger, suffering, grief and hardship are real, this place is full of delightful stories. While I was talking with a patient named Hoai, she handed me a piece of paper with her beloved son's scribbled handwriting. I read it and found him to be a wonderful son. He wrote to his mother: "You should try to get medical treatment and do not worry about anything. I can manage all things at home. Just call me."
I helped her call him and I found their conversation heart-warming and emotional. They showed me how wonderful motherhood is and reminded me that I miss my parents dreadfully.
Wiping tears from my eyes, I walked to the next room where I found patients to be wonderful and optimistic
I also met another patient who is a father of three. He said he hoped to get better soon to return to his wife and children waiting for him at home. He proudly talked about his children's stories.
Wiping tears from my eyes, I walked to the next room where I found patients to be wonderful and optimistic. A middle-aged man asked me to open the window. He said that even though he is inside the four walls, he daily does regular exercise, soaks in hot water for 30 minutes, tries to eat well since he wants to recover quickly from his illness and relieve the burden from doctors and volunteers.
He taught me this great lesson — adversity may be a problem for one person but an opportunity for another. He showed me that no matter what the situation, we must exercise, try our best and be positive. After dinner he was moved to another ward for less serious patients and in a few days he will be discharged from the hospital.
Patients like him help relieve the stress of hospital staff. I see beatific smiles in those patients who smile gently with the love of sharing and the mutual support among them. Doctors and nurses also tell me to try to give patients what they need.
The patients themselves also teach me lessons about sharing love. When a patient asked for plain milk, I went outside and couldn't find it, but fortunately another patient in another room had some and told me to give it to others. Many patients openly boast that they are given milk, medicine and fruit by people they do not know.
I also recognize the great dedication and sacrifices made by healthcare givers and volunteers. Many female students, under my observation, weigh around 40 kilograms but work steadily away during their shifts. They have little time to rest.
I really admire them as the huge amount of work is backbreaking, especially in collecting waste, changing patients' clothes, stripping beds, emptying toilet bowls, cleaning facilities and doing many other things.
At the end of each of our shifts, our faces become dark and our throats are bitter. The sisters have the same grueling work as male staff because patients are in severe condition. They show enormous dedication to patients and healthcare givers with true joy.
I also see healthcare givers wearing gentle smiles on their faces. Volunteers, especially sisters and brothers who work together with us, always smile and excitedly talk to one another and to patients.
We are encouraged to put patients at ease by spending time being and talking with them as they are entirely alone and isolated in the hospital, and they really seek our presence. One day, when I went to a room and informed patients about lunch, one of them exclaimed, “Here come the angels in white!” I also hear patients telling their relatives on the phone that they feel rather relieved here as they are cared for by those who are dressed in white like angels.
I see God’s presence in the sick, especially religious volunteers and the laity
The word “angels” reminds me of Jesus telling Nathanael: “You will see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
Now, I really feel that love itself makes what seem deathly come to life. God is present at the very center of this life by people sharing the gift of love with one another, and through it, I discover vast treasures in beads of sweat, charming smiles in every tear, the Kingdom of God in the barren Mother Earth, greatness in every little thing, and glory in humility.
I have seen and experienced, but I know that I can see greater things when I know how to look in the eyes of the faithful with loving hearts as Jesus affirmed to Nathanael that "you will see greater things than that.”
I see God’s presence in the sick, especially religious volunteers and the laity. One sister confided to me that she is not so bored because she has a rosary with her and knows that Mother Mary and God are always with her. A layman told me that he is at peace as he regularly recites the Hail Mary.
I see that God is still working in this hospital, where the deputy director announced that priests and religious volunteers have not yet been infected with Covid-19. God is still present to protect, love and support people in the most difficult times. God will have his own way because he can draw straight lines through the curves of our life.
Hoan Pham is a member of the Missionary Society of Vietnam. This article was summarized and translated by a UCA News reporter from a Vietnamese article published on hdgmvietnam.com here.
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