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Caring Congregation – One Volunteer’s Journey

“Hi, Mrs. Courb,” I said as I entered the hospital room. “I’m here on behalf of Temple Emanu-El’s Caring Congregation program to send our good wishes to you.” Peering out from the sheet, this woman of slight built bellowed, “That is so nice of you! I’m 94 years old and I have so much to live for!” We had a wonderful visit.

I entered her room with trepidation – it was my first volunteer visit. I left energized. In the three years that I’ve visited the ill at Presbyterian Hospital I’ve laughed, cried, listened, and prayed with these patients.

I’ve also learned. Rabbi Stern trained our Caring Congregation group to “not block the light”. We block the light when we do all the talking, when we tell others about our illnesses, when we ask and answer our own questions, when we give unasked for advice. A recent social worker talked about how we can use the healing power of touch during our visits. Rabbi Robbins and Peggy Pappert have guided us on how to incorporate prayer in the hospital room.

My most recent visit: the patient was deeply upset about her health situation. I listened and tried not to block the light. I touched her arm and let her cry. I prayed with her using these special words, “May G-d bless you and keep you. May G-d’s presence shine upon you and be gracious to you. May G-d be with you and give you peace.”

Just like my first visit – I left the room energized. Not because I made anyone healthier; but because I’m able to do a Mitzvot and be a part of a truly caring congregation.

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