A business trip took me to a trade show in Reno a few years ago. You have to understand that it’s not one of the places that I would choose to go on my own because, even though my family gambled at times, I’ve never got into it because every time I gamble I lose! So… after being there and observing people for a while, I remember thinking that it felt like such a sad place. People sitting at the slot machines pushing the button, taking a drag from their cigarette, pushing the button, watching the reels, no change in expression whether winning or not, pushing the button, taking a drink from the cocktail, taking a drag from the cigarette, watching the reels go around, pushing the button… I didn’t understand. The way the people looked and acted, the money, sex and drugs… seemingly freely available… continued to give them nothing… almost to let them down. No joy, no anger, no emotions at all. What were these people doing this for… what were they searching for… what need was being met… what were their stories?
Later at the trade show, I was talking to one of my peers from another company and he asked what I had planned for the weekend and I told him that I volunteered at a hospital. He asked me doing what? I told him as a chaplain… he looked at me and said that it fit me, how I related with people, my demeanor and care… I guess I am a chaplain at heart. With very little prompting, he then went on to tell me all the tragic things going on in his family, his Catholic upbringing and how the priests and deacons were so few anymore. We went on to talk about God, faith, beliefs, etc. What a discussion…just from saying I volunteer and being willing to truly listen. It just continued to reinforce in my mind that people really just want to be heard, cared for, valued for who they are, and to just have someone there. It’s not about what you know, how you look, how much money you have, it’s about caring and taking the time to listen. I wonder if the people playing the machines had anyone to listen to them… to care for them? I hope so… it changes lives.