The Rev. Robert Parrish Creative Cookies by Robert Parrish ********** From the Editor: Robert Parrish is President of the National Association of the Blind in Communities of Faith, a division of the National Federation of the Blind. The following little story is a reminder of how important small gestures of kindness can be. It is also a fitting tribute to Lorraine Rovig's work for many years in the Job Opportunities for the Blind Program. JOB has recently metamorphosed into an exciting new effort to train blind people to do jobs in the private sector. But here Robert pays tribute to the imagination, common sense, and compassion that always guided the first JOB program and that still characterize members of our national staff. This is what he says: ********** During the past few years Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB) taught me many skills in my effort to land a dream job as either a pastor or a hospital chaplain. However, the most precious memory I have of JOB took place when I was doing my first year of residency in Clinical Pastoral Education. The University of North Carolina Hospitals was a very large place. The facility seemed even larger to me because I felt as if I was being held at arm's length by some of the nursing staff.
Not that the staff were bad people: it just seemed that the nurses were not truly willing to support me in my job as a chaplain resident because of their fear of my blindness.
As with doctors, the very backbone of a chaplain's success in a hospital depends largely on the nursing staff. Nurses can give chaplains insight into a patient's medical situation along with pertinent family background. They are also critical in supporting a chaplain to help a patient or family use personal faith to make some sense of the crises they are experiencing. You can see, then, that I was desperate. I had to find a way to win the support of the nurses.
When I thought about calling Lorraine Rovig, who served as director of JOB for many years, I was hesitant at first. I knew that she was in the business of helping people to find jobs. But then I remembered that she was also in the business of helping people keep jobs.
So one afternoon I called her. When she understood my plight, she did not think it was unusual. I remember what she asked me during that conversation as if it were only yesterday. She asked, "Do you bake cookies?"
I responded that I could certainly learn to bake them, and learn I did. You would not believe what a bridge to building a sound and cohesive relationship with the nursing staff those cookies turned out to be for me. Not only did I get the support that I truly needed from them, but I also was able to be a chaplain to them as well. A small thing like baking cookies proved to be extremely powerful in helping me to overcome the barrier of blindness that the nursing staff seemed to struggle with. It also served to help me do my job effectively.
Giving the nursing staff cookies was a very personal touch. The suggestion to do so was also a demonstration of who Lorraine Rovig is. Over the years I have talked with her, and she has treated me with much dignity and respect. Of course her job was to care about blind persons' achieving gainful employment. But she also cares about the people.
The real lesson of life she taught me in this experience in baking cookies was to be creative in reaching out to others. **********