The Importance of Narrative

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou

In my opinion, we healthcare providers don’t do a good enough job supporting psychosocial/spiritual well-being (both in our patients and in ourselves).

We should strive to help people live well both in the presence and absence of disease. Appreciation for narrative is an essential element in helping to support psychosocial/spiritual, and thereby also physical well-being.

We live in a society increasingly characterized by data inundation without the framework of depth, ethics, knowledge and narrative to always make that data meaningful. Data uncoupled by knowledge of and connection to narrative is not always helpful, and can be harmful or misinterpreted. Just because data can be acquired, doesn’t mean that time and effort should be expended acquiring and presenting it.

In my opinion, efforts should be made to bring back an appreciation for and use of narrative and story and let it inform, broaden and deepen our experience.

Educational models which make use of personal, familial and cultural narrative should be developed, supported and implemented for all ages in the educational system, particularly pertaining to education in health-related disciplines.

We should stop, look each other in the eyes, and listen to one another’s stories.


Reading “Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver,” Penguin Press, 2017

Something of Home

I carry something of home into each new year.

Into encounters with sick folk, seekers.

Loners sizing up shame from across the room.

Learners getting acquainted with the language.

Helpers suffering strong in their strength.

Old people looking for a lost child’s face.


I remember how it felt to be mute;

life like a lump stuck in my throat.

Crying on the pages of an untold story.

Wanting to come home, but afraid.

Afraid to listen to silence I had never heard.


I came back with empty bags, open hands,

and a heart soaking in serenity.

Door unlatched. Table set. Gathered good.

Saints and singers. Mercy menders.

Tutors of the languages of Love.

They’d been reading a book titled my secret name.


So I sat and learned to listen.

Quietly. Safely. At home.

My bag filled with new tools and tokens.


Now in every New Year

I can bring something of home to every house call.

Lester Potts 50

“Rainbow Smokehouse,” watercolor art by Lester E. Potts, Jr., and artist who had Alzheimer’s


My Hope and Prayer for This New Year

My hope and prayer for this new year is that God will enable me to be a light-bearer, and give me the courage, integrity and humility to authentically share the story of my spiritual journey through dark valleys and mountain clearings; paying forward in gratitude what those who have loved me have given to me, bearing witness that the end of faith really is its beginning, that in all places and at all times, the love and mercy of God can be found and must be counted on, even, and most especially in spaces within in our lives that we might call Hell; that I might never shy away from telling the truth of this great good news, or seek the comfort of sitting in safety with such knowledge that is too important to remain unshared. I say again, I know God can be depended on, even in the many faces of death, and Love is the core reality of our existence. We are embraced safely within it, whether we know it or not. This is what I want to share in the coming year. May it be so.

File Dec 31, 9 11 28 AM

Reflections at the Close of 2017

This Old Year
on the one hand I am grateful
for all who have shown kindness to me
and to the people and causes that I value.
On the other hand I am remorseful
for all the occasions when I have failed
to show kindness to people and good causes
and thereby briefly became a non-participant
in the divinely directed movement
toward universal reconciliation
along the blueprint
of Love.

This New Year
I promise to join one hand
and the other hand together
mustering the courage to stand
squarely in the intervening paradox
with honesty and discernment
and patience and compassion
and humility and gratitude
and faith and authenticity
and mercy and wonder
along the blueprint
of forgiveness.


My Christmas Sack

It’s pretty predictable, really.
I’m dragging my stuffed sack of Christmas
into the New Year.

Bottom up, hoarded to the hilt.
Love layers added time on time.
Even paper and ribbons take up space.
“Packing for protection,” I explain.
(Some things get fragile with age.
Some start out that way.)

I like to reach in, blindly mixing blessings.
Looking back. Moving on.
Searching for something to share.

Certain souls may need a bow.
Others an ornament. Or a chocolate.

For a special one or two
there’ll be an apple and an orange
in the toe.

Lester Potts 5

“Candy Cane, ” by Lester E. Potts, Jr., an artist who had Alzheimer’s

The Second Crossing

(This ballad may be read while listening to “The Crossing,” by Ola Gjeilo
River. O, my beautiful, beautiful river.
You’ve bent to me a thousand days;
ten thousand times assuaged me.
Harken back, child. To cold December’s fall.
Lost beneath the frozen roof of water,
you glimpsed its true beauty, brief as
the life of a skin-trapped snowflake,
then blood pumped back into your brain.
But I have not forgotten it…
that rapturous scene of youth
has ever lit these eyes, though they’ve
sunk for so long down a well of darkness.
Ah, now… now all is coming clear.
I have surely been here; ambient air
enfolds like hands that know my feeble frame.
To the water. Come, come child.
The leading ones are here. The loving ones.
They sing. So sweetly sing and fly.
Grace alights around. A dove descending.
My name rings. It rings and rings.
Being held. Fully present to this great unfolding.
If only they knew. If only they would come and stay…
Pray by the river. If they could see what I now see.
Saw then, so dimly. Yet now, full on.
A scene so fair. So wondrous. So free.
Then in heart and mind and body
they would surely kneel forever.
Living River

The Cahaba River at Living River Camp and Conference Center near West Blocton, AL

Christmas Gift!

“Christmas Gift!” Life sprang awake this blessed Christmas morn.’

“Hand it here!” for goodness’ sake, because a Child is born,

and candles burn within each heart to light the darkened space

that settles over all or part of every human face.

Now comes the singing, dancing day, when thankful hands are clasped,

and every tear is wiped away, and every hope is grasped.

The lessons in these carols ring a truth through all the land,

that poor folk without gifts to bring are sure to understand.

Now something must be born anew whenever something dies,

when Love lays down its life for you, then Love within will rise.

And ever lifts this deathless dawn upon the waning eve,

And ever gives the Christmas Gift to all who would believe.


(“Lester’s Tree,” a watercolor by Lester E. Potts, Jr., an artist who had Alzheimer’s disease)