I kinda-sorta have an agreement with the VP for Parking that I won’t write about the patients. We have no such agreement about the staff, so let me tell you about Jamila Kafi. She’s a tall, light-skinned African-American woman on the housekeeping staff of Six South. At the end of the month she will be moving up to become Six North’s Unit Health Coordinator or, as she says, “the receptionist.” Her job will be to answer phone calls, transfer orders, and generally be the go-between who puts people together with other people.
Jamila is an Arabic name that means “beautiful”; her mother just liked the sound of the name. Jamila was the color of coffee the way her mom liked it, hence the middle name of Kafi, pronounced “coffee.”
In addition to working full-time (she’s been in Crouse Hospital’s housekeeping department for about a year and a half) Jamila is the single parent of five kids—“well, sorta six.” First, there is her 18-year-old daughter who is graduating high school this Friday, which makes Jamila both proud and happy. Then there are the 16-year-old twin boys and their friend who she’s kind of taken in.
The extra boy’s father is absent and his mother is married to or living with another man. Man and boy have a hostile relationship and mom favors the man. She still does things for her son—buys him clothes—but doesn’t much care for him. Jamila’s other two children are between the ages of sixteen and ten.
Jamila was not married to their father. A while back she got religion and told him he had to marry her. He declined so she booted his butt out and considers herself the better for it. We agree that a woman should follow a man, but only if the man follows God. Otherwise, the woman should follow God on her own.
Jamila’s mother is the pastor of her church, which is located in the city in what used to be a bar. The bar got shut down because it had so many fights. When people see action at the location, they come expecting to find the bar re-opened. It is, but with a sign that says, “Under new management.” It is called Enoch’s Walk.
“Enoch holds a rare distinction in the Bible: He did not die. Instead, God ‘took him away.’
“Only a short sentence, ‘Enoch walked faithfully with God,’ in Genesis 5:22 and repeated in Genesis 5:24 reveals why he was so special to his Creator. In this wicked period before the Flood, most men did not walk faithfully with God. They walked their own path, the crooked way of sin.
“Enoch [the father of Methuselah, who lived to be 969 and was the grandfather of Noah] walked in faith the 365 years of his life, and that made all the difference. No matter what happened, he trusted God. He obeyed God. God loved Enoch so much he spared him the experience of death.
“For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:5-6, NIV)”
In Aaron Sorkin’s West Wing, Chief of Staff Leo McGarry paraphrases Thomas Merton and says “The desire to please God pleases God.” In faith, Jamila and I so desire.
Someone hassled Jamila, challenging the idea that she could be a good unit health coordinator. Jamila’s reply was “My church has been praying for a better job for me [weekends off to parent the kids] and now God has put it before me. Of course I’ll be able to do it!” God will be her first assistant but she’s already taken the test, which included a section on recognizing medical terms, and she did well.
Jamila has an associate’s degree in ministry and some or all of a degree from Onondaga Community College in something entirely different. When she’s done her parenting she will continue her own education.
Jamila comes every morning with her mop, squeegee bottle and brilliant smile—it glows from a light within—and we talk of things. Some days are hard for me and I know I could end it all right here, right now, by refusing my medications. But should I? I have been waiting a year for a nursing home bed that seems not to exist.
Most people—particularly psychiatrist Falci—emphasize how grim nursing homes may be. Jamila says, “Oh, I can see you doing so well in a nursing home!” And I hear the voice of God, as I once heard it from an aide who said, “If [the Medicaid employee] is giving you a hard time then she’s giving everyone a hard time, but you’re smart enough and strong enough to do something about it—and you’ve got to!”
God spoke to me directly on Unit 3-6 and said, “I’ll do the heavy lifting; you be patient.” Here, psychologist Dr. Ronald Fish got credentialed to work just days before I arrived and we started working together. So this week God spoke again. He said, “I put you and Ron together for a reason. Ask him what to do.” So I did.
He said, “Be patient.”