Community Post: Beauty in Life and Death

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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Hospitals are not typically seen as beautiful locations. From someone on the outside looking in, the boring white walls and hygienically-cleaned floors lack the power to inspire, motivate, and encourage. Yet this is the place I have found the most beauty in my life. This is the location where I have seen the most creativity, witnessed living art, and experience true community.

Every person works as part of an intricate system. Each one is living out their talents and sharing their gift for a common goal: caring for others. The janitorial staff daily wipes the slate clean and creates a sterile atmosphere for healing. Patients come and go out of rooms, entering sick and leaving better. A revolving door of pain and joy cycles. Eyes are opened to the reality of the brevity and fragility of life. Families stop and take the time to hug one another.

The nursing staff artfully paints waves of calm over fearful minds and sculpts a safe place for people to be vulnerable. Whether they are giving bed baths or administering medications, they are vital to the community. Their presence speaks of life and love. They give much more than any textbook can teach. They are living art, making a difference in the lives of others.

As bellies begin to rumble, the kitchen staff steps up to the canvas and with broad strokes they feed, nourish, and strengthen. Each honored guest receiving their portion specifically prepared to their specifications and hand-delivered to their room. They know most of the food will go uneaten since some of our guests are too sick to enjoy the meal set before them, but this does not diminish the beauty of their offering.

In the surgical suites, surgeons use their knowledge of the body to take what has been marred and make it new again. Like clay in a potter’s hand, they sculpt and rebuild, taking the most beautiful creation God has made and doing their part in helping maintain its longevity and viability.

In the emergency department and in every crevice of the hospital you will find doctors. These watchers at the gate are charged with overseeing life and death. Though they're powerless to grant either, they are so captivated by God’s handiwork they've made healing their life’s purpose. Creating individualized plans of care based on each story in the rooms, they dance to an internal song of wholeness, health, and wellbeing.

If every member of the team worked individually, we would be ineffective. Our power lies in oneness. Our strength is in our connectedness. The beauty created is in our sense of community. Every team member flows within their area of skill and training, free to express their art. Every member
respects the others' presence and realizes we each are needed.

During my weekends on call, I can be at the hospital for hours on end. On the days I’m physically and mentally exhausted, I find comfort in the presence of the team surrounding me. It’s during these times I often find myself reflecting. As I sit staring at lifeless white walls, I know these walls can’t begin to tell the story of the beauty they witness every day.

Saundra Dalton-Smith is an internal medicine physician, author, and speaker. Her books include Set Free to Live Free: Breaking Through the 7 Lies Women Tell Themselves (2011) and Come Empty: Healing For Every Place Life’s Hurt You (2015).

Editor's Note: This article is part of The High Calling series, Creating Beauty at Work. While brightly painted walls or sleek, modern furniture might lighten our mood and inspire creativity, investing in the people we work with, helping them to bring the best of who they are and caring about them even when they can’t, is at the heart of a beautiful workplace. Are you or someone you know feeling a little lackluster about your work environment? Before you buy a new framed print for the wall, try complimenting your cubicle mate or saying thank you to the janitor. Or start a conversation with a coworker by emailing or sharing one of the articles in our series.