With these hands you touch many lives
With these hands you communicate care
With these hands you meet needs
in body, mind and spirit
You do all this and more with these hands
In every task, in every touch, may these hands bring comfort today and every day
It was really very simple. But it meant so much. I work in a retirement community of 700 residents and 350 staff, more or less on any given day. Our reputation is built on the hard work and caring compassion of our staff. It doesn’t matter the job description, scrubbing floors or dishes, leading Bingo or chapel, offering food or encouragement, changing light bulbs or laying carpet. Every job description includes walking with residents and their families, hearing their stories and holding their hands. Especially in the nursing home and memory care many of our residents have lost so much. Impaired mobility or eyesight or hearing. We are there to live in the moment with them and have a positive experience without regard for how long the memory will last. Many residents are fortunate to have family, church family, friends who visit regularly. Others have family who live at a distance. Some have no one. Our staff and volunteers are their entire community. In my 19 years every staff person I have ever met sees their work as a valuable contribution to the lives of our dear residents. It’s not a job; it’s a ministry of hope and caring presence. That’s why my co-chaplain suggested we offer something he had practiced at a hospital, a blessing of hands. On a Thursday in July we met staff at times like shift change and lunch times. We told them we would be stationed in a spot nearby for a while and they came as they wished. It was really simple. We rubbed a dab of oil in the palm of each hand as we spoke words of blessing. It was a sign of appreciation for and encouragement in their work. Some staff members had tears in their eyes. Some were wary or politely declined. Some I barely knew launched themselves at me for a hug. At the employee picnic the next day two people brought a family member. And I blessed the paws of one lucky dog who provides therapeutic touch every day. Our blessing of hands is a small rite of affirmation for the amazing staff we have. They know the chaplains are available anytime they want a blessing they may have missed that day or want a booster. Rites and rituals are special times to celebrate who we are, what we do and where we’re going, like a wedding or graduation. Even something simple like a little oil on the palm or the paw.