[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]
Back on February 21, I wrote a blog post called “Greg Mackie, CNA,” after I had decided to take a class to become a CNA (Certified Nurse’s Aide or Certified Nursing Assistant). Well, I’m very happy to report that I passed my state certification test yesterday, so now I am “Greg Mackie, CNA” officially. I’m working at a nursing home now, and finding many opportunities to apply the Course to my work there.
This nursing home has a long-term care wing for those who are there permanently, but I’m actually working in the rehabilitation wing, a place for people who are going through rehabilitation (physical therapy, speech therapy, etc.) with the goal of going back home eventually. I had to chuckle when I learned I was working in a rehabilitation wing, because the field of rehabilitation has a significant place in the history of the Course. Specifically, it was Bill Thetford’s attendance at a conference on rehabilitation that led to the famous “I am here only to be truly helpful” prayer.
Jesus told Bill that he was sending him to the conference because he (Bill) needed to overcome his fear of those with damaged bodies and brains. I reread what Jesus said to Bill about this, and given my current job, I can relate so well to what he said:
You have a fear of broken bodies, because your ego cannot tolerate them. Your ego cannot tolerate ego-weakness either, without ambivalence, because it is afraid of its own weakness and the weakness of its chosen home [the body].
That is really why you recoil from the demands of the dependent, and from the sight of a broken body. Your ego is threatened, and blocks your natural impulse to help, placing you under the strain of divided will. You withdraw to allow your ego to recover, and to regain enough strength to be helpful again on a basis limited enough not to threaten your ego, but also too limited to give you joy. (Absence from Felicity, p. 300)
It’s true for me; that “divided will” is really there. On the one hand, there is something in me that recoils from “the demands of the dependent.” There are some very damaged bodies and brains in that place, and seeing them does remind me of my own weaknesses and the fact that I’m not getting younger. Will something like this be my fate? It’s scary to contemplate. On the other hand, I can also feel my “natural impulse to help,” and have already experienced immense gratification in my work there. I go home some mornings (it is an overnight shift) with a deep sense that I have done “something beautiful for God,” as Mother Teresa put it.
But that gratification is limited by my fear of those damaged bodies and brains. The collision between the recoil impulse and the helping impulse really does lead to a situation where I help “on a basis limited enough not to threaten your ego, but also too limited to give you joy.” How does Jesus know me so well? How is it that guidance he gave someone else forty-plus years ago applies so well to me? Jesus certainly knows how our minds work.
So, a big part of what I’m doing at the nursing home is working to let go of that recoil. Jesus gave that “I am here only to be truly helpful” prayer to Bill for that very purpose, and it is an absolute gem. It reminds me that I am not there to get my ego needs met or even for my paycheck, but only to be truly helpful to others in whatever way the Holy Spirit directs. I say it at the beginning of every shift, and often when I get a quiet moment during a shift.
I’ve also been drawing on some of the material we’ve been looking at in the CCC’s focus on the “healer of patients” role. I find it ironic that we’re studying the healer of patients role (and I’m leading the classes on the topic) right as I’m beginning a job where I’m quite literally a healer of patients! So much of that material applies directly to my work.
For instance, I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of a line in the Manual which describes how the Course-based healer brings about healing: “He overlooks the mind and body, seeing only the face of Christ shining in front of him, correcting all mistakes and healing all perception” (M-22.4:5). As I work, I’m trying to take this line to heart: Even as I do what needs to be done physically on the surface, I’m simultaneously asking the Holy Spirit to help me overlook the damaged body and confused mind my physical eyes are showing me, and see instead the face of Christ in this dear brother whom I have been called to help.
This is still a work in progress, but I feel like I’m making progress. And I’m excited about the potential of this new secondary vocation. (I will always be a Course teacher first and foremost.) As Jesus told Bill, “A mind that recoils from a hurt body is in great need of rehabilitation itself.” That certainly describes me. But he also told Bill that “All symptoms of hurt need true helpfulness, and whenever they are met with this, the mind that so meets them heals itself.” By extending healing to those in my care, I will find my own healing. Great work if you can get it. The pay is low, but the benefits are priceless.