Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The harp delivers and soothes

One of the most satisfying decisions I made during my tenure as CEO of our hospital was to introduce harp playing.  This happened in an unplanned way.  I was walking near the building and ran into a family friend, Nancy Kleinman, and asked what she was doing.  She mentioned that she was spending a lot of time playing the harp, and I invited her to play in our public spaces.  She was willing to volunteer, but I insisted on her being paid because I felt that this would be an important service, one that should be offered on a professional basis.  Of course, no insurance company would cover this kind of service, so I paid for her personally for several months.  Later a generous donor stepped forward to fund the program on a ongoing basis, and an additional musician was added to expand the program.

Beyond public spaces, the harpists were also asked to play in individual patient rooms.  Here is an example.

Here is a more recent one, offered at Boston University's Marsh Chapel recently:


One of our dear Marsh Chapel members is in hospital.  We visited her on Wednesday at Beth Israel Deaconess.  She heals, hour by hour.  How grateful we are for the skill and care of doctors and nurses there.  The best wisdom of the reason, the finest attention to efficient detail, the steady combat, as in every hospital, against infection—these we again prized, this Christmastide.

After conversation and prayer, the elevator brought us again to the first floor.  As the door opened, something…A wondrous note, an audible epiphany, a gratuitous kindness…the sonorous notes of a harp.  To the gifts of medicine, there were added the gifts of music.  Deep, resonant, lovely.  Something else.  Something transcendent.  A gratuitous kindness, calling us up and calling us out.  How fitting that harp note.  A gift not strictly necessary, but utterly meaningful.

Walking away, one heard something, something deeply about being human or becoming fully human.  We will not reach our height, become who we are, only by rationality and efficiency, as crucial, as saving as they are.  To become who we are we shall need a turn to grace, that chord of depth and height and breadth and love, resounding from the nimble fingers of someone making a gift of gratuitous kindness. 

-The Rev. Dr. Robert Allen Hill, Dean of Marsh Chapel


An MD said...

I did not know that. Bringing in Nancy is probably the most beautiful thing you did for this Hospital. She is my dear friend now, and somehow I manage to bump in to her only to benefit from her notes.

Hal said...

One of my significant experiences was being in a hospice center with my god-mother, who had few relatives alive to visit, when I heard a gospel choir singing nearby. It was beautiful. Turns out they were "singing out" a member of the choir who was in the room, peacefully lying in final hours. Room was jammed with smiling crying members, just lovely. (and so appropriate.) Next day, in a different room nearby, more singing, this time from a barbershop quartet, same experience. Clearly this facility had encouraged such activity. It was and is so special.

Thanks for triggering the memory,

jim conway said...

Ok... I'll admit it. I have a "white coat sydrome." I've walked all over hospitals for 46 years comfortably unless it is about me. When it is the BP goes up and anxiety grows.

As a BIDMC patient, I get off the elevators from the Shapiro Garage and instantly listen for Nancy... A boost for healing when she is there... and no doubt less notes and anxiety for everyone else