In A Hospital, There's No Monopoly On Prayer

Janet Lutz (right) with Lori Armstrong at StoryCorps in Atlanta. i i

Janet Lutz (right) with Lori Armstrong at StoryCorps in Atlanta. StoryCorps hide caption

itoggle caption StoryCorps
Janet Lutz (right) with Lori Armstrong at StoryCorps in Atlanta.

Janet Lutz (right) with Lori Armstrong at StoryCorps in Atlanta.

StoryCorps

Janet Lutz worked for 30 years as a hospital chaplain. Before she retired, she came to StoryCorps with a friend, Lori Armstrong, to talk about ministering to the staff of Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

"One of the things we do," Lutz said, "is go around and bless the hands of all the people who work in the hospital."

And that meant she often had to track down staff members and support workers all over the building — in basements, bathrooms and break rooms — wherever they happened to be.

"When I go around finding people," Lutz said, "they're often startled, and then really touched by it. As am I."

It was while making the rounds down in the basement that Lutz met a technician who put special care into her work.

The woman's job was to package all the tools and equipment needed for various surgeries. The required instruments were listed on a checklist, with the patient's name at the top.

The woman told Lutz that when she packed the instruments, she would also look at the patients' names — and she would pray for them.

The woman said this had been her routine for 40 years.

"I thought, 'No one knows that she's doing this,' " Lutz said. "Here she is, a person who has been working at that hospital for longer than most of us, who is doing this incredibly important job that has to be done precisely and carefully.

"As she's doing this, she's praying for the patients she will never meet — and the patients that she will never see; she'll never know the outcome [of their surgery]."

And then she found out that most of the hospital employees did the same thing.

To Lutz, the episode was proof of how much good, hard work goes on behind the scenes in a hospital.

Even the most essential work can go unseen by patients and their families, who "just assume these people are all doing their work, and they don't realize how rich their lives are, and how rich their stories are," Lutz said.

Armstrong then asked Lutz if she had any advice for those employees before she retired. "Carefully tend to those kinds of moments, to not brush them off, to let them happen," Lutz replied. Just like that moment in the basement.

"Sometimes just sitting and listening to somebody else is very, very important."

Produced for Morning Edition by Katie Simon. The senior producer for StoryCorps is Michael Garofalo.

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