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A Hospital Homebound Musing 9/22/2021

One of the new parts of my jobs this year is working with families whose students need Hospital Homebound instruction. These are students who have medical concerns or are recovering from illness or injury and thus are unable to come to school. Sometimes they are unable to come at all for an extended period of time and sometimes they are out of school intermittently. The school system wants to be sure they are able to make academic progress while they are out, so we set up teachers who work with them to provide instruction and sometimes other services like physical therapy, either virtually or in the home or, prior to COVID, in the hospital itself.

Whatever the case, my main job for Hospital Homebound services is paperwork.

I know it is hard to believe, but working to coordinate between the school system, medical providers and families to determine things like eligibility and make sure all legal requirements (which have been written by folks who are usually neither educators or medical providers), can generate some pretty impressive paperwork.

When approval is finally obtained, there is often an impressive amount of documents and forms. And quite unimpressively my role is making sure all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed, and that all these forms are filed in a manner that meets all state and federal requirements so that the rules around the law known as FAPE (a free and appropriate public education) are met.

Of course, what I sometimes lose sight of in this process is that what I am really doing is helping facilitate a child getting to continue with his/her education and experience some sense of normal in a time that is often scary and painful.

Anyway, my work with the Hospital Homebound process probably was instrumental in a story catching my eye as I looked through some books recently that included poems, illustration, quotes, and true stories.

It was a story about a teacher who like many teachers I know was trying to make a little extra money. She took a job as a teacher for students in the town’s hospital. Her job was to help them keep up with their lessons just like the Hospital Homebound teachers in my school district.

She arrived for her first day of work—after a full day at school—and presented herself in the pediatric unit where she was given the name and room number of one particular boy. Looking at the folder of lessons from the child’s school, she discovered his regular teacher wanted him to keep up with his class by working on nouns and verbs and fractions.

It wasn’t until the visiting teacher got to the door of the boy’s room that she discovered she was no longer in the pediatric unit but was in the burn unit.

She wasn’t prepared for the sight of a badly burned little boy, racked with terrible pain.

Yet, she had agreed to come, and so she walked into his room and blurted out something about being the boy’s teacher, and how she’d come to teach him, and they would be working on nouns and verbs and fractions.

The lesson did not go well. The young man was uncomfortable. He found it hard to concentrate. As for the teacher, she wondered about the wisdom of putting this critically injured little boy through such an exercise. However, she told the young man she appreciated his hard work and would be back to continue tomorrow.

The next day when the teacher arrived, a nurse from the burn unit came up to the teacher and asked, “What on earth did you do to that boy?”

The teacher was about to apologize, but the nurse went on, “We’ve been very worried about him, but ever since you were here yesterday, his whole attitude has changed. Now he’s fighting back, responding to treatment. For whatever reason, he’s decided to live.”

Later, after he’d left the hospital, the boy explained the significance of his interactions with this teacher. And it turns out the nurse was right. He’d completely given up hope — until he saw that teacher. Looking at her as she stood at the foot of his bed, he said to himself, “They wouldn’t send a teacher to work on nouns and verbs and fractions with a dying boy, would they?”

Far too often we forget the power of just doing the work placed in front of us.

In the book of Colossians, most likely through his friend Timothy, Paul writes these words. “Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters, since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ.” (Chapter 3:23-24)

Earlier in verses 14-17 of that same chapter he writes, “Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

I love how Clarence Jordan in his interpretation of the text known as The Cotton Patch Gospel interprets these verses from Colossians.

Wear the clothes, then, that will identify you as people whom God has selected and dedicated and loved. Your outfit should include a tender heart, kindness, genuine humility, loyalty, persistence. Put up with one another, and freely forgive each other if one has a gripe against somebody. You all forgive as freely as the Lord forgave you. Over all these things wear love, which is the robe of maturity. And let Christ’s peace, into which you were called as one fellowship, order your lives. And be thankful for it. Let Christ’s nature find abundant lodging among you. Teach and correct each other with great wisdom. With joy in your hearts sing hymns and songs and spirituals to God. And no matter what you’re doing, by word or deed, let everything be in the name of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to the Father-God. (Col. 3:12-17)

Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as though you were working for God and not men. You may rest assured that you will receive from the Lord the pay that’s due you. You are employed by Christ the Lord. (Col. 3:23 -24)1

Friends whether you are called to teach a child i

n a hospital or serve as a paper pusher or just love your neighbor or be kind to the clerk at the supermarket or show patience to the waitress who is working a second shift because the restaurant is short-staffed or whatever is put in front of you, do it with great joy and love. Do it in the same way you would serve the Lord. And in doing so you may change a life…in fact, you may even give someone the encouragement they need to go on with life itself.

And remember as is found in Hebrews, “Do not neglect to show kindness to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Alleluia Amen.

1. Clarence Jordan. Cotton Patch Gospel-The Complete

Collection. Smyth & Helwys Publishing.


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