Facing death everyday while working in hospice for a year took Bridget Hinton ‘14 "to a deep place of mystery," she says. "Living day in and day out with sadness was a challenge but I also saw a lot of hope and love."
For the spiritual care office of Providence Memorial Hospital in Hood River, Oregon, the Jesuit volunteer would visit people receiving palliative care, drive them to appointments, run errands, do a little housekeeping, and often just sit and listen.
In the deepest, darkest moments, when she wasn't at all sure what to say, "I tried to put myself out of own comfort zone and just hold space, be comfortable with slowness and silence, even when I didn't know exactly how to relate to someone three generations beyond me."
Ongoing cross-cultural training with the Krista Foundation for Global Citizenship that includes recognizing the significance of generational, socio-economic, geographic and cultural nuances helped Bridget in these moments. Recognizing how her urban, diverse upbringing had shaped her lens helped her have empathy for the circumstances of her patients and listen without making assumptions, even when some of what she heard offended her.
She came to see that phrases like "they are here to take our jobs" reflected the frustrations of the rural and economically challenged Columbia Gorge community. "I would never use the words ‘I disagree' but sometimes I would push back slightly," she says. "I had to engage in conversation, but I tried not to prove anything. That was the art of the work, to not prove anything."
Now an Education Program assistant for Oregon State University extension, she teaches cooking classes and gives presentations on nutrition to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients. She also is volunteer facilitator for a grief group of teens who have lost loved ones.
"The winter Debriefing Weekend affirmed my choice to take a break and take care of myself, but I still feel a calling to hospice social work," she says.
"I wanted a full-force hospice experience and that's what I got. Through the debriefing weekend, I could deeply pay attention to my service and admit that they were really hard years," she says. "I was yearning to reflect, and now I am yearning for service. That's when I lean into the Krista community, which says yes to applying service to life in every possible way."