Dr. K is a physician and an artist, that is, he approaches his medical practice as an art. He
explained this distinction to a group of high school students he was mentoring.
When I first opened the Youth Ministries Center in Glendale, Dr. K approached me with an offer: If I brought him students, he would mentor them, help them as they selected their career paths as well as assist them if they applied to med school. I went with the first group of kids and listened in as Dr. K’s passion for medicine and healing was transferred to this group of student. He spoke as an artist practicing the medical arts, treating and caring for the entire body as well as the human condition.
My relationship with Dr. K continued for several years. I was intrigued by his approach to the healing arts. One day he invited me to join him on the rounds at a Free Clinic he had set up in Ventura County. Many migrant farm workers are attracted to California’s Central Coast. Dr. K attracted a few health care professionals and volunteers to tend to the needs of the needy at a make-shift clinic operating out of the social hall at a local church in Thousand Oaks, California. We drove there together giving me a chance to hear his understanding of the human condition, caring, compassion and healing. It is one thing to hear and another to experience. So that night he allowed me to tail him, as he went from patient to patient, checking blood pressure, temperature and doing what he does best: listening, caring and offering a path to healing.
From the unique vantage point I was offered, I witness an artist in action. But in particular I remember vividly this artist’s brush strokes – as he painted a picture of warmth and design in the life of Mrs. Martinez, the next patient we would visit. Mrs. Martinez was waiting for Dr. K and when we walked in you could tell she was relieved. Dr. K addressed her by name and in her gesture I could tell he was a familiar face to her. Dr. K asked her how she was doing and began rubbing her back as she responded. She spoke and told her story. He rubbed her back and put her at ease. It was a gentle rub, in a circular motion, offered as a therapeutic massage without the deep kneading action. She spoke and spoke. He rubbed and rubbed. The “exam” lasted 20 minutes. At the end, she thanked the doctor. He told her that everything would be fine.
As we left the room, it occurred to me that there was no specific medical trauma that was diagnosed and no medical service – pills, shots, therapy – that took place or offered. At least to this untrained eye, I couldn’t diagnosis the diagnosis. I asked Dr. K, “What was that all about? What was she in for?”
“She’s lonely. Her life is absent of touch.” He said this in a most gentle voice. “She comes in once a month. She talks. This 20 minutes is her human contact, the touch and the feel that she needs to feel good.”
We talked and shared even more that night about Mrs. Martinez as well as some of the other patients I observed. But the image of a lonely woman, warming up and coming to life because of a simple touch has never faded from my memory. Touching and feeling is essential and necessary to human life. We say, life is to be celebrated! How can we celebrate alone? Are we not called to interact, engage and touch one another – spiritually, emotionally and physically?
Today’s mediation is a simple one of reaching out and touching. Take an extra moment to feel the touches in your day today – the handshakes, the embraces, the kisses, as well as the emotional and spiritual touches. When a poem or prayer moves you to tears or goose bumps, what are those physical manifestation of our inner soul all about? How are they connected and how can they touch us to find complete healing?
I look forward to continuing on this journey with you again tomorrow.
(Note: From that original group of students I took to meet Dr. K, the first student graduated med school last year. She promises to be another artist of the healing arts.)