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The car starts and there I am, window down, heater on, music playing in the background as I make my weekly 35 minute drive to my cousin’s house for a haircut. Excessive to some, lacking sense to others, if you've met me you know the secret.......I don't have much hair to cut. Hey, can't a brother/sister Chaplain look good? Well of course we can. But the "drive" behind the consistency of this weekly appointment has absolutely nothing to do with actual physical appearance but has everything to do with a term that we all need to engage in more often: "self-care." That's right, a total of 70 minutes with no cellphone, no company, no family or no veterans to counsel.
As a CalVet Chaplain, I count it an awesome blessing from God to spend each day providing spiritual support to the beautiful men and women who at some point in their lives gave of themselves to serve our nation. CalVet is their home. For many of them, this 396-bed facility is their last residence. Residential Care for the Elderly (RCFE), skilled nursing and memory care - the three levels of care offered at the CalVet home in West Los Angeles - houses many of our
World War I and II veterans, Korean War veterans as well as Vietnam veterans. The stories they tell are captivating. It reminds me of sitting with my late Grandfather and hearing a story that is
far more interesting than any script Hollywood could create. Apart from the daily group devotional gatherings, grief/loss sessions, one-on-ones, weekly worship services, etc., the element of it being "their last place of residence" is a sad yet frequent reminder. So far this year,we have memorialized appropriately 20 of our veterans who reside at the CalVet home. The culture of the CalVet home is family. Forty plus hours every week as a Chaplain is often times more hours than we spend with our personal families at home. An amazing statistic, right?
As Chaplains, saying that we love what we do is an understatement. We have been blessed with an abundance of care and love for our fellow man. God has gifted us with the knowledge and heart to care for His people and to enhance their view of their own spirituality. So I invite you, my fellow co-laborers, to adopt a term if you have not yet done so, and that is "self-care." Ok, a 35 minute drive to and from for a haircut may not be your thing, but set aside time for you to exhale and reconnect. Exhale and reconnect to be a better “you.” A better “you” is a healthier “you.” A healthier “you” is a more equipped “you” to do God's will and to fulfill the purpose of
Chaplain/Native Spiritual leader He has designed for your life!
Dedric Burks, Protestant Chaplain, Calvet Home of West Los Angeles