Leavings

The other day my summer intensive students finished their unit of CPE. We gathered at an Oak Park restaurant and had a great time. It was wonderful to see them together, around a table, laughing, and making fun of each other and of me, remembering their 11 weeks of chaplaincy at the hospital.

They had a way of relating that didn’t include me, and we had a way of relating together that did. We joked over how the Catholic and the Episcopal students were first to order a bottle of wine. Somebody told a good joke about Baptists and beer, and, when it felt right, I asked a troubling question about substance abuse and ministry. I learned more about the six traditions around the table when it comes to the concern. You can tell a lot about a group of people when they gather, when they raise questions, when they sit with questions.

We took pictures, entertained our server, and enjoyed our food. We talked about our patients and our group work. I tried to enjoy their natural rhythm and further minimize my “supervisory approach” as we went about the work of ending.

I asked my students a similar question that I raise each week with my boys. On the morning my week with the boys ends, I ask them what their most favorite and their least favorite part of the week has been. It’s become a ritual for us. In fact, if we’re driving to the drop-off where they greet their mother and I haven’t raised the question, one of them will. The ritual has caught on.

I asked my students something similar and we all listened and joined in to see again the experiences we knew about or a few that we hadn’t known about. We listened and, as one feminist theologian wrote, heard each other each speech.

To supervise students well, you have to have a way to end. You need an approach to leaving and it causes an educator to be intentional about not only beginnings but endings. Even if you don’t do much to finish, end, or terminate, you have to consider it to be good at supervision. How will this end? How do I want this to finish? Where would I like to be when we’re done?

My therapist told me once, when we were discussing the beautiful nuances of introverts and extroverts dating, that everyone needs to leave, not just introverts. She said we practice leaving every time we get together. Extroverts move toward other people naturally. Introverts move in the direction of the individual self. These moves are about energy, the maintenance of a person’s soul. You need to move toward and away.

Everyone comes and everyone goes. It’s a natural part of life. It’s a natural need.

Even when you move toward people, the soul requires leave-taking.

When you leave, may you do so with grace, blessing and laughter.

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