Saturday, August 07, 2010

The 7 Types of People at Shabbat Dinner in the Hospital

An anonymous set of people donates catering to Ein Kerem each shabbat, so that all people who wish to may enjoy traditional shabbat meals in the hospital. You can eat the meals at the set up tables, which includes kiddush, singing, etc. Or you can take packaged meals back to your hospital room, if you prefer to eat together with someone who is bedridden (or for any other reason).

Seven types of people take advantage of these meals:

The first two types are chronic hospital visitors: 1) the chronically ill and 2) those relatives and friends who regularly visit them. In this category are people who don't know when they will get better, or know they will not get better, or know they will get worse, or who regularly visit the hospital for treatment.

It seems to me that chronic hospital visitors live in another world, a reality of daily and weekly hours devoted to themselves (or to their friends or relatives) that is not on the priority list for those of us lucky enough to not have to deal with it. It's an unreal thing to have a makom kavuah [1] in a hospital synagogue.

The second two types are accidental: 3) the temporarily ill and 4) those relatives and friends who are visiting them. If you broke a leg, or had your tonsils out, or similar, but you know that the situation is temporary, you don't have the same sense of unreality as do the chronically ill. You've only put life on hold for a few days.

The fifth type is also a temporary visitor: 5) a new parent. Unlike the previous four types, the hospital visit for someone who just gave birth, or whose spouse just gave birth, is a source of joy. At dinner, while other people are staring at their food, the new parent is handing out celebratory chickpeas and pouring chocolate liqueur.

The sixth type is 6) the hospital staff: doctors, nurses, helpers, cleaners, caterers, security guards, etc. The hospital experience is just a shift for them. All of the staff I met this shabbat were helpful and responsive.

The seventh type, who invisibly mix with the previous six, are 7) poor people who come to the hospital each week for a few free meals. Although, perhaps I should put those people into the first category: chronically ill.

Among many other things I read this shabbat was this fantastic piece in the New Yorker about the world of art forgery. The piece takes a dramatic turn midway.


[1] A regular place in which one sits.

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