“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

Maggie had an incredible imagination as a child.  She created “Mr. Bear” stories that amused her brother at bedtime.  When she was learning to read, she added adjectives to add color to the simple stories.  Pretending to be a spy, she kept a notebook full of observations of potential criminal activity in our neighborhood, including a sketch of a “suspicious” neighbor.  Her favorite pretend activity always involved serving others, whether it was taking an order on her waitress pad, or pretending to be a children’s librarian, reading a story to all her stuffed animals.  This desire has carried on into her young adulthood, serving whenever there was a need.  With her servant’s heart, we were not surprised when she chose a career in nursing.

After three and a half years of classes, case studies, clinicals, and validations, Maggie has completed nursing school and has been hired as an RN at the local hospital.  Her endless days of studying, viewing Nurse Blake videos, and taking practice NCLEX-style questions are over.  She is now doing what she felt called to do: assess patients and provide care and comfort for them during a medical crisis.  Yet, if you had asked her at the beginning of nursing school what the first day of her career would look like, she would have never anticipated working in the middle of a raging pandemic!

I have a lot of friends who are nurses or who work in some sort of health care capacity.  Although I have heard a few of their stories, I had no idea of the challenges they faced during the pandemic until my daughter returned home after her first shift.  These front-line workers are going beyond the call of duty to take care of patients.  Daily, they are putting themselves and their families at risk, especially if they work on a floor with COVID-19 patients.  In addition, the amount of PPE (personal protective equipment) they must wear adds to the challenges of their job, making it uncomfortable and hot.  Even the simple act of staying hydrated is challenging, when the only safe place for their drinks is in the break room.

Beyond their physical challenges, healthcare workers have had to change they way they do care.  They must assess the urgency of the needs of their patients and prioritize their responses to preserve the limited amount of personal protective equipment.  They also must speak louder through the various masks which, by the very notion of raising your voice, may overshadow the sense of compassion they are trying to convey to their patients.  Due to visitor restrictions, they are having to soothe angry and confused family members over the phone instead of in person.   Finally, they watch patients die surrounded by only two of their loved ones.

I know a lot of this weighs heavily on my daughter, and some would argue, “well she is a new nurse, that is to be expected.”  Yet, surveys and personal interactions with nurses who have been working in the profession for years indicate that they are all feeling the same weight.  They leave work exhausted and, in many cases, have anxiety when they return to work.  One survey indicated that 93% of healthcare workers were stressed, while 86% reported feeling anxiety.  A different survey indicated that 48% have considered either retiring, quitting, or changing careers!

These statistics are alarming and, not only as a concerned mom, but as a Christian, they should challenge me to some sort of action.  It is not enough for me to say, “we are all in this together.”  I do not face the same challenges that they face on a daily basis.  So, I have been thinking about some things I can do.  First, I need to pray for healthcare workers, not just a simple sentence, “God bless all the healthcare workers.”  Instead, I need to bring the names of those individuals that I know personally and pray for their strength and that God protects their physical and mental well being.  I need to pray that they feel a sense of peace, both as they go to work and as they leave work.  I can pray that in the times they find rest, they find it restorative.  Besides prayer, I can also take the time to write cards, send texts and make phone calls, offering them a few words of encouragement.  Finally, another way I can support them will also help support small restaurants in the area that have also suffered from the pandemic as well.  Many restaurants are providing healthy meals for healthcare workers during their shifts.  For a small price, I can purchase a few meals to offset the cost of the meal for the restaurant.  These meals let the healthcare workers know that the community is supporting them, which can help boost their morale when they are feeling stressed.

“We are all in this together” should be more than just a hashtag we add to our Instagram feed.  If I am really a part of the body of Christ, I need to share the burden of those around me who are in the midst of directly battling the pandemic.  This is not just limited to healthcare workers, but includes grocery store employees, package delivers, teachers, ministry staff, and anyone else who has had to change the way they do life.  I may not be on the front lines of this pandemic, but I can offer prayer and kindness for those who are!

If you live in the Chambersburg area, you can buy meals at Falafel Shack for Health Care Workers by clicking on this link, https://falafel-shack.square.site/product/share-pay-it-forward-falafels/431?cs=true&cst=custom. Go ahead and buy yourself some of their hummus as well, you won’t regret it!!!

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