This pretty much sums up most of my experiences in life and Chaplaincy most of all. You have to wonder why we ever set intentions when we head out on an adventure. Or perhaps the very definition of “adventure” precludes the setting of anything but one’s compass. In the aftermath of Chaplaincy ordination, I find myself wondering what the heck I was thinking of when I got caught up in the excitement of yet one more “little (two-year) project.” It seemed harmless at the time; one could almost see the ad.
Intrepid adventurers for two-year voyage in
Must be able to withstand long periods of submersion
and own a reliable compass
Organizers not responsible for any loss or letting go
If I recall correctly, when I did apply (the popular myth is that I was conscripted), my own compass was quivering and spinning wildly. I had little hope that anything would reset it and had resigned myself to living out a life of constant compromise. Apparently encounters with large magnetic events will do that, derailing the intention of travel or throwing it off course. Resisting the call, I said to roshi, “You don’t want someone in the program who is ethically challenged, do you?”
“You’re not, but who better?” she replied.
Over the course of these two years, I have come to discern between “my being ethically challenged” and “having my ethics challenged.” Not a nuanced difference but in the fray, they are easily confused. Sometimes, it’s not until the dust settles that I can determine whether I navigated through one or the other. And here’s the real challenge: regardless of which it was, both will require a course correction.
The other day someone asked me how it felt now that it is over. It’s not over, I replied. It’s barely begun. Someone else asked if I felt different. Superficially, no. But something seems to be roiling around in my gut and I’m quite sure it’s not that wicked flu everyone seems to have. Another friend asked what the best part of all this has been.
Well, at 0830 the morning after I landed back in Ottawa, I attended a training for the Emergency Spiritual Care Assistance Team (ESCAT). I’m one of the Buddhist faith leaders (what the heck does that mean!?) but now am a Buddhist Chaplain training to respond to natural and manufactured disasters. I walked into the room at the hospital feeling jet lagged and worn anxious about meeting 20 Pastoral Care Volunteers and Chaplains for the first time. There on the table was a cake and on it in lovely blue icing were the words:
The best part. Not in the eating of the cake but in savouring the community who so generously celebrated my making landfall.