ABSTRACT

I was assigned to a monastery on the island of Lantao for eight years, helping the community prepare for their integration into the Peoples Republic of China. With some frequency I would fly home to my monastery in Massachusetts. As we winged our way over the Pacific we were fed three movies and a couple of meals. I remember one particular movie—you probably saw it. It was the story of an eminent physician who taught at a university medical school. Unexpectedly one day he was diagnosed with throat cancer and he found himself on the other side of the desk. It was quite a learning experience for him. When he was finally able to resume his teaching post the first thing he did was have his class don those immodest little johnnies that strip patients of any outward sign of their dignity and then undergo the usual admission process plus some placebo tests, enema, and bed pan. I think that those of us who have been “on the other side of the desk,” who have spent our days in a hospital bed, have a better chance of being truly compassionate chaplains. We know a little bit more about the “wounded healer.”