Sunday, February 22, 2015

Society’s Benefits not open to All

I recently had a complete knee replacement at Mercy Orthopedic Hospital and it appears that Hillary is absolutely correct, for even surgery "took a village."  In my case the surgeon, Dr. Richard Seagrave and anesthesiologist, Dr. David Delahay required the assistance of PA Kevin Kluthe and PA Rick Richards, who monitored the depth of my "sleep"—an important task since two main risks of major surgery are blood clots and infection.
            Once out of surgery (around one hour) a vast cadre of professional nurses, rehabilitation therapists, and volunteers took over my care.  They formed the point of a spear of the most serious service-minded people I have ever met.  For example, upon leaving the room after performing some assistive task (taking blood, giving pills, etc.), they all would invariably turn and ask, "May I help you with something else?"  Let me put it this way: once the catheter was removed, my walker and I always had an escort to the restroom.
            I received pastoral visits from ministers at opposite ends of the theological spectrum in an overtly Roman Catholic hospital (religious pictures and slogans in the halls, and a crucifix on every wall): the hospital chaplain, Rodney Weaver (a former Navy chaplain) endorsed for the military by the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and the Rev. Dr. Roger Ray (a former Disciples of Christ minister), pastor of a  non-orthodox church of progressive religious faith (Community Christian Church).
            The point of these musings about my surgery is that contemporary America is a highly technical and well-educated society that on the whole is compassionate, and for all our problems, generally tolerant of the religious views of others.  In many ways we seem to be an inclusive society, but in truth we have yet to achieve that increasingly elusive goal. The opportunities of our great society are easily open to the upper rungs of the economic ladder, but only in a limited way to the labor class; and the opportunities available to the lower and impoverished class are severely limited.  This increasing gap between the highest and lowest levels of society means that the lowest levels have fewer opportunities for good health, higher education, and economic advancement. As an economic group their prospects for the future are bleak.
            Federal and State legislatures would do well to bear in mind this dangerous economic gap when making laws negatively affecting the economic prospects of the poorest.  People in this country are raised on the ideas of equality and opportunity, and on a belief that they can improve their situation, yet the economic imbalance separating the lowest rungs on the economic ladder from the highest is large and not decreasing.  Our economic pyramid is very wide at the bottom leading the lower and impoverished classes to become continuing sources of protest, and a growing gap could conceivably lead to revolution (the French Revolution of 1788 that was begun by the starving French peasantry comes to mind).
            We have made some positive strides, particularly in religious tolerance, as suggested by the fact that I could on the same day in a Catholic hospital receive pastoral visits from its (Baptist) hospital chaplain and a progressive Christian pastor.  But candidly I did wonder where the rabbi and the imam were.

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University


  1. I hope your recovery is swift and complete, Charlie. Unfortunate timing with our icy streets. Don't fall! Concerning your visits: were you asked your religious preferences when you checked in? After all, you are an ordained Baptist minister, and Roger is a personal friend. I am pretty sure if you had said you practiced Judaism or Islam, you would have had different visitors. You didn't mention a Roman Catholic priest, the obvious representative for Mercy.

    Of course, that isn't the point of your post. The American myth focuses on exceptionalism, equality, and above all, individualism. We've lost sight of the fact that policies good for society as a whole can help the individual and strengthen the nation. We have been on a zigzag path since our nation's founding to make the myth reality. I'm not ready to give up on us yet.

    Keep your running shoes dusted off!


    1. I agree with your summary of what we usually take to be our national ideals--there may be one or two others. At bottom, however, stating the ideals of the nation is personal opinion. But what you named, in my view, are certainly on the list.
      On this entrance to the hospital I was not asked any questions about religion, but I am in their data banks so they may have asked that question in the past. Peggy, however, recently went in to the hospital for several days, and she only received a visit from a hospital chaplain who was a woman in a Catholic religious order. Roger came independently (and brought me a milkshake!). And the hospital chaplain (Weaver) was a former student from MSU who recognized my name on the list of incoming patients. I received no visit from a Catholic priest or representative of the Catholic faith, either of which I would have welcomed (you cannot have too many people concerned about the welfare of your soul has always been my view).
      You think if I had requested a visit by a rabbi or an imam, such would have been provided? Perhaps so. In the military (army chaplains are assigned to battalions (comprised of four companies each; around 100 personnel to a company). The chaplain assigned to the battalion is responsible to provide, or to arrange for, religious services and/or support for every member of the command. But given the situation with unit logistics that does not always happen. I would assume that hospitals are similar. I served as hospital chaplain for several tours during my time in service. My thinking is that Hospital chaplains have a difficult job.
      Perhaps other readers have some insight into this issue. How was the religious support provided by (whatever) hospital during your stay?

  2. Wishing you a rapid and painless recovery!..............Donn

  3. Where were the rabbi and the imam? They were out trying to talk sense to the apocalyptic and militant descendants of Moses and Mohammad.

    Gene Stecher
    Chambersburg, Pa.