Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Helping professions

In last week's radio interview I was asked if it's really true that I learn something new from every conversation I have about Job, as I claim. It is. As fractal confirmation, here's a lovely email I got today from someone who heard the podcast. You might remember the policeman from Rockaway whose confession at "Job in Red Hook" that he was "ashamed" to feel like Job so stunned me (¶¶10-11 here). I answered the radio interviewer's question by recounting this again, stating that I still wasn't sure I understood - but had no doubt that there was a profound truth in what he said. I understand a little better now:

I just listened to your interview on RadioWest about the book of Job... very interesting. You were puzzled by the report of a Hurricane Sandy firefighter feeling ashamed to lose his home and identifying with Job. I have worked with healthcare providers dealing with a drug addicted population, and I think I understand this kind of thinking on the part of those in the helping professions. Like the addiction medicine doctor, the firefighter has undoubtedly seen many terrible things happen to many people, and such suffering is almost always "undeserved." I believe that the firefighter feels ashamed because he thinks it is self-indulgent for him to think that he has received a personal punishment from God because he has seen the suffering of so many others. He knows from experience that suffering is widespread, random, and generally undeserved, and he feels ashamed because he can't help but feel personally affronted by God when he himself is a victim. This type of thinking puts himself in a separate category (why me?) from others who have suffered and have every right to ask the same question.
Just a thought. Thanks for starting a rich and important dialogue.

Thanks for listening!

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