Thursday, March 19, 2009

All in a day's....

Some time ago, as I was waiting for someone to show up so we could meet with my new boss, a Soldier came into the office asking whether a Chaplain were available. Only SFC McG and I were in the office, so we both turned from our desks to the door and said, simultaneously, "Yes!"

We're beginning to do that more and more often. It's a bit unnerving, actually. For instance, after a rather long day of convoying to three bases to say Mass last month, when asked by a rather tired-sounding Private First Class at the Company headquarters of the Soldiers who moved us, "Are you looking to get back to Battalion?" both SFC McG and I said, at the same time, "We're from Division."

The look of terror on his face was priceless, as was his sort of snapping to attention and his immediate, stuttering response: "We'll get you where you need to go right away, Sir!"

But I digress.

I told the young Soldier who came into my office looking for a Chaplain that I would speak with him. He was clearly agitated. He looked to be a very young Private First Class, but I'm not a good judge of people's ages; he's actually 35 years old.

He was concerned about situations back home, and had been having trouble concentrating at work, which is why his NCO suggested he come to talk to a Chaplain. He'd convinced himself that his whole world was falling apart, and that he won't be able to support his mother back home, in addition to everything else. No wonder he was frantic, and unable to perform his duties as he needs to!

When I get frantic, and feel trapped, my brain immediately jumps to the-sun-is-burning-0ut option. That just leads me to feeling even more frantic. Not very helpful, eh?

I pointed this out to him, and that he seemed to be doing the same thing.

I then mentioned that the antidote to leaping to the most catastrophic interpretation of events is to name ten true things. (This is yet another thing I've learned from my friends who go to a lot of AA and Al-Anon meetings.) A very simple technique, but surprisingly effective.

So I asked him to name ten true things in his own life. He looked a bit flummoxed, so I pointed out for starters, that his particular job over here Down Range will enable him, whenever he leaves the Army, to get much more lucrative employment than most. No matter what happens, he'll be able to support his mother. He'd never realized the potential of his Army Military Occupational Specialty, I guess.

With that, he relaxed visibly, and began to name his list of ten true things.

He's not a very religious person, but I mentioned that when I'm feeling concerned about people I love, especially when they're having difficulties, I find it helpful to have a really, really, really big God in my life, who's lacking none of the essential skill sets necessary to deal with my loved ones' situations. I encouraged him to borrow my Higher Power if he didn't have one of his own.

As he left the room saying he felt calmer and more hopeful, he certainly looked better.

I went off to my meeting with the boss, 20 minutes late, but confident she'd understand.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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