The mournful sound of Scottish bagpipes signified important times of transition for Chaplain Lydia Jackson.  Pipers played for funerals, the crowning of kings and inaugurations of governors, the changing of the seasons and the dedications of spiritual houses of worship.  Pipers filled hearts with courage for the facing of whatever challenge lay ahead.

            Lydia was not the daughter she would have liked to be. She was not the mother she had hoped to be.  She certainly wasn’t the wife she thought she’d be. And now she must return to being the chaplain she ought to be. 

            It had been fifteen years since she left for seminary and a dozen years since her return. The time had been full of lessons. Lydia had learned a great deal about grief, more than a passing knowledge of chronic mental illness, a good deal about the stages of life and the stages of faith, something about living with the unknowable, and a little bit about herself.

            “I am who I am,” she sighed.

            The Presence smiled.

            Lydia could hear the faint strains of Amazing Grace as she went to sleep.

            The chaplain had used up all her leave to attend to her mother’s illness and death, so to work she must return. When she got to the hospital, confusion reigned.  The nurses were angrier than ever.  There was talk of a full-fledged strike. Management meetings and action plans and loyalty tests were the order of the day.

            Someone had heard Lydia say weeks ago that her background as a labor organizer would not allow her to cross a picket line. It was like a religious tenet, she explained.  A delegation of management representatives came to interview her.

            “It’s true,” she said.  “If there is a strike, I will not cross the picket line.”  Lydia was banned from all meetings and her computer’s in-house intranet was turned off.

            If the nurses did strike, their jobs would ultimately be protected by federal law.  If Lydia chose not to cross the picket line, her job was history.

            Well, here you go, grinned the Presence.  You said you weren’t much of an institution person.  You’re about to escape—to follow that mythical, magical creature called Life Purpose.

            “Can a Life Purpose keep changing?”

            It changes if you keep growing.

            Which side are you on?” Lydia asked.

            You mean between the nurses and the hospital?  In these matters, I don’t pick sides.  But I encourage you to. It’s a values clarification exercise, the Presence explained.  No one will be injured and no one is going to die, but some important issues are at stake. Everyone will have a clearer idea of who they really are as a person when it’s all over.

            When I walk out of here, I can’t walk back in,” Lydia said.

                        That’s right.

            “I’ve learned much about life, working here at the hospital.”

            And you’ve done good work.  You followed the magic when you left for seminary.  It’s time to follow the magic again.

            “I’ve said I wanted to help people through transitions.”

                        Now you must make a transition of your own.

            “It’s not just time clocks and managed care, you know.  It’s me.  I hurt so much when there is nothing I can do to change what seems destined to be. I feel so badly when I can’t be with everyone whenever and wherever they need me.”

                        Leave that to me.  You are human. 

            How will I make a living? Support my children?”

                        I will provide.

            “The other chaplains are staying inside.”

                        More nurses will be outside.

            “The supervisor said I should hang out with nurses; find out what they’re up to.”

                        Yep. You’ll be an inspiration.

            “Can I have bagpipes?”


            On the day of the strike, Lydia drove to the hospital, parked, walked across the street and joined the picket line. The bagpipers were already there.

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