Monday, September 20, 2010

Ma'am, I Am Tonight

A fair amount of my old folks are pretty religious. I've got one who talks about Jesus like they're locker room buddies ("I told Jesus he's gotta help the Mariners tonight, because that new manager is from the minor leagues!") as well as one who used to be a pastor. I've got many who have paintings of Jesus up in their apartments, or rosaries around their necks, or crosses above their doors. The very religious aren't shy about sharing it, and in general I find it pretty charming. They found a faith that works for them and makes them happy, and I'm glad for them.

The difference between old folks and younger Christians seems to be that the elderly ones assume that anyone who is kind to them, and helps them, and cares about them (all of which I try to do every day) must also share their faith. And the thing is, I don't. At all. I'm an atheist. A big old nonbeliever.

You can probably imagine that this causes some problems. And you're right.

I think of myself as pretty tolerant, and also pretty practical. So when my Most Confused Woman Ever was alone while her husband was in the hospital, I hunted around her house until I found something with the address of her baptist church on it. And I took her there. And I grabbed her minister so that he could get his flock on board with visiting this woman, bringing her groceries, and visiting her husband. Because they needed community and support, and if that meant I had to sit through a hateful gay-bashing sermon to get it for them, then that was a tradeoff I'm willing to make. It doesn't mean I enjoyed it, but I did it. And then I never went back. But it improved my old peoples' quality of life, which was my goal.

And my octogenarian who talks about Jesus like they're pals who like the same sports teams and would be great fishing buddies? When he tells me he prays for me every night, I thank him and give him a hug. Because he's thinking of me, and wants my life to be good, because, as he tells me, I'm a "nice nurse and a sweet girl". I'm not going to tell him to quit praying for me, or point out that his God is probably sick of hearing about me and wishes he'd pray for someone more worthy. I may be imagining God rolling his eyes and saying "Ugh, not that dumbass Polly again!", but my old man is sharing his heart with me that way and so I like it.

But it starts getting sticky when, like my ex-pastor, my residents ask me directly where I stand on all this. The other night as I was laying out clean clothes for that man to wear the next day and helping him get ready for bed, he said "You are so gentle and kind to an old man like me. I know that Jesus Christ must have touched your heart to make you this way. Do you believe in God?".


Lucky for me, this man has memory loss, so I've gotten to try out two approaches with him: honesty and lying.

Honesty was: "No, I don't believe in God and I'm not Christian. Thank you for saying you think Jesus has touched my heart and that I'm kind to you, because I know that is a big compliment from you and I'm grateful that you like having me around". Unfortunately, that led to him wanting to minister to me, which made me late for giving out snacks to the diabetics, which isn't good for them, and then also late for giving a bedtime shower which meant that lady had to stay up really late, and I got off work late as well. All in all, not practical, and not useful. I'm still not converted, and Mr. Pastor isn't any happier than he was when we started.

Which led me to lying. Just saying "Yes" when he asked me again, and "Good night and God bless". He went to bed happy, and I got to give care to everyone else on my list in a timely manner.

I think you can probably guess which approach I'll be sticking with from now on.

And if their God gets mad at me for being a faux-believer when I'm on shift, then I hope he reads this: God, sorry I lied about believing in you. But while you're busy taking care of those people's souls, I was busy brushing their teeth, bathing them, feeding them, and kissing them goodnight. You can understand that, can't you? They need that stuff too. So don't be mad. I'm just doing the best I can. And so are they. And according to them, so are you. So let's be friends, and I'll see you at Monday night football.

Maybe I should double-check with some of my old folks about whether or not God can read blogs. And whether or not caring for the sick and elderly makes me exempt from wrath or not. I'll figure it does until otherwise notified.


  1. Wonderful...I love the way you look at the world, and people. :-)

  2. It's the condition of your heart. I'd say your alright in the eyes of God (and I pray for you too, so he probably is sick of hearing about you).