The highest official in the health system of this region is Katy Gallagher, the Minister of Health of the ACT (Australian Capital Territory.) She initiated a visit to The Canberra Hospital's Auxiliary and also the Pastoral Care department on Wednesday this week, for about an hour. I had received word of this the week before. Wow - that generated a bit of excitement! The Minister of Health , wanting to have "Morning Tea" with me and our pastoral care staff and volunteers (and the hospital auxiliary leaders) then a tour of our department's facilities. This sort of thing had NEVER happened before, but apparently she was personally interested in pastoral care.
The thing is, I then managed to take quite the spill last Sunday evening right at dusk while riding my Big Wheel during one of my "explorations" - this time over at the Tuggernong shopping complex. For those of you who don't know what a Big Wheel is, it has a 36" diameter rim with about 2" of rubber tire surrounding it, thus making it a 1 metre high wheel altogether. It's very BIG and heavy and fast and can develop a lot of momentum - a whole different "animal" to ride compared to my "regular" 24-inch wheel. Though I've now got the "red Ferrari version" I'm still getting used to it, a fact that will soon become apparent!
As I collected myself, checking to see whether anything on me was broken, I did a little self talk: "I can't let this experience intimidate me. Get right back up there and ride this thing back home!" I did. All three kilometers, while feeling the blood dripping down the side of my head, not to speak of feeling really bummed out because that service station, the only one still open in the whole area, had no air - and no public restroom. Well, at least Clair de L'uni would live to ride again!
The worst damage was to my pride. I can count on less than one hand the number of times in my 45 years of riding uni that I had really hurt myself, but this incident was probably the ugliest and definitely the most embarrassing. My glasses somehow survived the crash quite well, once I bent the temples back to the right angle. I had a busted watch crystal and some very "angry-looking" road rash around my left eye socket and nose and on my right wrist.
Like most wounds in life, these sorts of things take time to heal. Though my abrasions had begun to scab over pretty well, by Monday, I "looked like hell" - like someone had abused me! Even on Tuesday I had plenty of 'splainin' to do among my colleagues at the hospital, each of whom wondered "what happened" with every new encounter.
Then it occurred to me - I could simply deploy some of that typical Aussie-style self-deprecating humour that tends to distinguish Aussies from Americans! So, thus it was that I introduced myself to the Minister of Health that day: "Hi, my name is Clair, and I'm a recovering.....unicycle rider!"
That instantly released some tension and formality, and warmed things up for both of us! Katy Gallagher responded with a robust, genuine laugh - and what's more, she completely understood and empathized. I knew she would. A doctor/administrator at the hospital and fellow Big Wheel rider and friend, Rod Lambert, happens to be her neighbor. His wife, Anne Cahill Lambert, had told me so a number of months back, and I remembered that fact. She has encountered old fools in their fifties riding around on unicycles before.
I actually had a very engaging and "well-balanced" private chat with her off to the side for five or six minutes during which I was able to share about what we've been up to lately, along with some other program developments I have in the planning stages. Various other members of our team got to meet her and we enjoyed the experience together. I found her to be very personable and perceptive - and, of course, now much better informed about pastoral care and chaplaincy. And I forgot all about how I looked in the mirror - it simply didn't matter anymore.
Just another great example of the extra assets a hospital chaplaincy manager has -- if he rides a unicycle! Plus, a couple of the most basic and vital lessons that one can learn from both of those domains in life were reinforced: