One day at my job, I was transferred to work at the extended care facility; an area different from one I normally work in. I was accustomed to the acute care environment, but this would be different: I would be caring for people in a health facility that serves as their home. I was out of my comfort zone. I thought,
“How am I going to muster up the confidence that the residents expect?”
I walked along the hall, orienting myself and noting the residents’ names. Some were in their dining areas, waiting for their meals. Others laid weakly in their beds, gazing at me as I went by. Then, it dawned on me: these were some of the many faces of Jesus. And with that, I started my work.
I came across a lady from my old neighborhood; I helped her bathe and dressed her healing wound. Another resident had worked as a clerk in a local grocery store, a long time ago. I was surprised to see her, and happy to finally know her name. I cared for others I recognized as former bus drivers, acquaintances I had previously met in the hospital, and parents of schoolmates.
I saw a face that I remembered from my first days of work at the hospital. This lady had worked in the laundry. She had given me the gift of her wonderful laughter and friendly greetings, as she did everyone she met. There were no joyous greetings this day. Instead, there was only a vacant stare and aphasia, leftovers from a stroke and dementia. I fed her; she didn’t communicate, but only opened and closed her mouth to eat. I grieved, knowing I might only hear her voice in my memory now. I hoped that memory wouldn’t fade.
During that day, I also came across some of the best Whist players around, who were former residents of an assisted living center that I visited frequently. Sadly, they too had succumbed to their illnesses and were no longer able to play. I was even able to visit with a former classmate who, due to untimely misfortune, came far too soon to the extended care facility.
I cared for a once strong man, whose tremors no longer allowed him to even feed himself. He had been a man of authority, and now was totally dependent upon others. He carried this cross with dignity.
As the day ended, I walked home and thought about one final group of the faces of Jesus: those who care for the residents every day. I hoped I’d helped to make the day a better one for all of them. And, I realized that I didn’t need to muster up confidence as I had thought at the start of the day. What I needed was to see the faces of Jesus and recognize that, as caregivers, we can be the faces of Jesus, too.