By Jonathan Schroeder
As we begin the month of December, one theme we often hear is just how busy and commercialized the holiday season is getting. Whether we’re hunting for Black Friday deals, booking plane flights, buying Christmas presents, putting up decorations, or planning holiday get-togethers; it’s really easy to forget the true meaning of the Holiday season – to gather together with friends and family to commemorate the birth of our Savior.
For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, gathering to remember the Savior is something they’ve been encouraged to do every week. Each Sunday, members are encouraged to gather in chapels across the world to learn about Jesus Christ and to strengthen one another. Members are also encouraged to refrain from activities like working or making purchases on Sundays. It’s part of their effort to “keep the Sabbath Day holy”. But for some members of the church, “keeping the Sabbath Day holy” isn’t that simple.
“The first thing that comes to mind when I think of the Sabbath is that it’s a day of rest,” shares associate professor Bret Lyman. “Although, in my career, it certainly hasn’t always been a restful day.”
Ever since he was a teenager, Lyman has worked as a certified nursing assistant in hospitals and nursing homes. Like many medical professionals, Lyman has often spent his Sundays changing catheters, applying bandages, and helping patients get to the bathroom. But Lyman says that working on Sundays never stopped him from trying to keep the Sabbath day holy.
“When I worked on Sundays, the Sabbath was a day when I was little bit more mindful about why I was it was necessary for me to work that day. I thought a lot more about how what I was doing related to the things that the Savior would do.”
For Lyman, it wasn’t hard to find connections between what he was doing and what the Savior would do.
“One thing that I was always impressed with was the story of Savior washing the disciples feet. If you think about it, that’s kind of gross. I mean the disciples walk around in sandals all day, the roads were made of dirt, and they worked hard, so they probably sweat a lot. Their feet must have been just gross! So for the Savior of the world to wash somebody’s feet; that’s a real act of humility!”
“When you’re doing nursing care, a lot of it is kind of “dirty-work”. You’re taking care of people’s most basic needs (taking them to the bathroom, cleaning them up, dealing with blood and body fluids, etc.). If you think about it, you are providing basic service; the same way that Christ was doing that basic service of washing the disciples’ feet. You are doing what the Savior would do.”
Lyman says that in some ways it was easier to serve people as the Savior would when he worked on Sundays, compared to other days of the week.
“One of the delightful things about working on the Sabbath was the lighter atmosphere. On Sundays, there aren’t as many tests and procedures going on. Patients generally have a lot more family members come to visit, so there are more people to interact with. That means there are more people I can support and more opportunities for me to spend time with my patients and take better care of them.”
“When I think of the Savior, I think of how he was always providing service to his fellow-men,” associate teaching professor Ron Ulberg adds. “As nurses, that’s what we do 7 days a week, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.”
Ulberg spent 25 years of his career working in an intensive care unit (ICU) the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Salt Lake City. Work in the ICU is one of the most demanding and stressful careers in the nursing profession. But Ulberg says when it comes to Sabbath day observance, the small and simple things are often what matters most.
“I think a lot of it has to do with your attitude and the way we interact with people; just being a kind, caring individual. Any opportunity that you have to lift somebody (it doesn’t have to be a major thing), to make their lives a little happier and their smiles a little bit bigger can make a huge difference.”