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Touchstone Project seeks to reinforce positive connections

Oct. 16, 2014, 8:54 AM

Charity. Love. Peace.

Those are some of the words engraved on more than 500 palm-sized stones that Vanderbilt’s Department of Pastoral Care will give to staff during Pastoral Care Week, Oct. 20-25.

It’s all part of the TouchStone Project, a way to recognize and affirm staff, said Matt Frierdich, staff chaplain. This is the first year for the project.

Frierdich and three other chaplains will travel to adult in-patient areas and visit with staff in as many units as possible, participating in a 5-to 10-minute guided reflection about the value of the work that they do. Staff members will be left with a stone to keep, with a word to ponder.

“The rock can be a reminder of not only the things that you bring to the work and what you’re doing, but also perhaps a new way of seeing or imagining what you do,” Frierdich said. “It’s a nice, tangible reminder of the care.”

For years, Vanderbilt chaplains have blessed the hands of staff during Pastoral Care Week. The sentiment was similar to the TouchStone Project: to recognize all the work that those hands have done. Though the inspirational stones will take its place in adult inpatient areas, the blessing of hands will continue at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt during Pastoral Care Week.

The Rev. Marcy Thomas, M.Div., Staff Chaplain, was struck by the TouchStone Project when she saw it demonstrated at an Association of Professional Chaplains Conference earlier this year and wanted to bring the practice to Vanderbilt.

“As an ongoing project, we hope to remind our people during these encounters of the deeper meaning of their work here,” Thomas said. “While meant as a personal affirmation, it is also a call to remember the ways in which our work connects us with each other and with the longing we all have to do good and meaningful work in the world — an encouragement to reflect on what called us to our vocation in the first place.”

The chaplains will continue to schedule guided reflections and give stones after Pastoral Care Week is over.

Frierdich acknowledged that it has been a challenging year for staff and that this is a small effort of promoting a sense of trust.

“The value that we would hope folks are getting out of this is a sense of connection to work or reconnection to what they’re doing.”

For more information about Pastoral Care Week at Vanderbilt University Hospital, call 343-3535, and at Children’s, call 936-0425.

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