The Fierce Humility of Rain



Praise to the Maker of the torrent
and the hurricane,
praise for the fierce humility of rain:

whose motion will not end, neither come to rest
nor ascend again until, like grace,
it finds the lowest empty place.
~Matthew Baker “Rainfall”



See, banks and brakes
Now, leavèd how thick! lacèd they are again
With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes
Them; birds build — but not I build; no, but strain,
Time’s eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes.

Mine, O thou Lord of life, send my roots rain
~Gerard Manley Hopkins from “Thou art indeed just, Lord”



As I look out through a tear-streaked window at the beginning of this lightening day,
I fear inadequacy to the task before me:
Parched and struggling patients line my schedule.
Anxious and weary and barren too young,
seeking something, anything
to ease their distress in a hostile world,
preferably an easy pill to swallow.
Nothing that hurts going down.

While others thrive around them,
they wilt and wither,
wishing to cease breathing.

Lord of Life, equip me to find the words to say that might help.
May it be about more than genetics, neurotransmitters and physiology.

In this dry season for young lives,
send your penetrating rain
to fill with grace
the emptiest space.
Reach down and shake their roots
and slake their thirst.



Just Another Day

photo by Josh Scholten

“This is another day, O Lord…
If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely.
If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly.
If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently.
And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly.”
— Kathleen Norris citing the Book of Common Prayer

This day is the wrap-up of my twenty-third academic year working as a college health physician,  my most challenging so far.  Despite diminishing budget, shrinking staffing, higher severity of illness in our patient population, three suicides and more failed attempts,  our staff did an incredible job this year serving students and their families with the resources we have.   Reaching this day today is poignant: we will miss the graduating students we have gotten to know so well over four or five years,  we watch others leave temporarily for the summer, some to far places around the world, and we weep for those three families whose students will not return home again.

In my work I strive to do what is needed when it is needed no matter what time of the day or night.  There are times when I tend to fall short–too vehement when I need to be quiet, too urgent and pressured when I need to be patient,  too anxious to do something, anything when it is best to courageously do nothing.  It is very difficult for a doctor to do nothing but I vowed over thirty years ago in my own graduation ceremony to “First do no harm.”  Never do I want to cause someone harm.

In a sense I graduate as well on this last day of the school year–just not with cap and gown and diploma in hand.  Each year I learn enough from my patients to fill volumes, as they speak volumes with their struggles, their pain, their stories and sometimes their forever silence.

Bless our students and their families on this day, with blessings from us who work toward the goal of sending them healthy into the rest of their lives.

It is not just another day.

photo by Josh Scholten