Editor's Corner: Touched by Angels

Kilian McGowan, C.P.by Kilian McGowan, C.P.

His name was Hal and he appeared suddenly at the door to my hospital room. I was standing nearby reflecting on a medical problem that had brought me to a hospital five times in the last 20 months. Hal was carrying a tray of daily journals and hospital goodies and wearing a jovial smile. Our animated exchange of stories and insights was quite human, down to earth, and time flew. Several times he said something that lifted my spirit and rejuvenated my courage. When he finally left, I felt that I had been touched by an angel in human form. right: Compassion Editor Kilian McGowan, C.P.

I sat down and reflected on this passing encounter. Hal is a volunteer who gives freely of his time, his humor and his insights to bring a little joy and hope to countless patients -- perhaps at a time when they are most in need. I realized that through my five recent hospital stays there had been many other Hals.

During that time, I had been served by about 35 doctors of various nationalities. The nurses, many of them recent immigrants, had come from about 40 countries. Then there were the nurses' aides and support personnel. Overwhelmingly, my experience with all these dedicated care-givers had been an affirming and healing experience. I felt as though the whole world had embraced me to restore me to health.

Most of these compassionate care-givers came from poor backgrounds of other countries. Their quality of care, like that of mercy itself, does more than fall like a gentle rain from heaven. Affirming the basic worth of the patient -- poor or rich -- it has a power like unto God. Its gentle, experienced touch restores life, renews hope and uplifts the human spirit. Restoring life, it affects the destiny of each person it encounters.

Many of these care-givers hardly realize their impact on others' lives. Many, indeed, as they share their gifts with their patients, are carrying heavy burdens of their own.

In recent weeks the media has treated the lack of civility in America. All too many Americans have little respect for the person, the opinions, the property of others. Listening, the first act of love, becomes unlikely and dialogue is impossible. Confrontation destroys communication. The path to peace is taken over by violence.

The care-givers of whom I write show us another way -- a way of love and healing. Drawn from the whole world, they are truly witnesses to peace and civility at its best.

The rest of the world would do well to follow their example.

Kilian McGowan, C.P. was founding editor of the Passionists Compassion and edited the magazine until his death in July, 1998

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