This article by Anne Housholder is featured in our most recent newsletter. You can see the full newsletter here.
Reflections on Being with: Friendship at the Healthcare Margins
This season at Lydia’s House we’re reading Friendship at the Margins by Chris Heuertz and Christine Pohl. As we’re reading it, we’re asking ourselves questions about what it really means to be friends, particularly friends with those whose lives have often been marked by frequent losses of friendships and frayed family structures. Serving women transitioning out of homelessness means that Lydia’s house often leads us both intentionally and unintentionally into friendships we don’t expect. How is friendship a unique model of being with those at the margins? For me, as a physician, I’ve found I can offer friendship through medical advocacy and accompaniment, often putting aside the privileges of my credentials to just be with women in some of their hardest moments.
Within a very short time of welcoming guests, the leadership of Lydia’s House began to notice the frequency with which trips to the hospital occurred. These often late night visits to emergency rooms were exhausting for everyone, but regardless of how short staffed the house was, volunteers committed to going with and staying with guests throughout a hospital visit. Our volunteers have also accompanied mothers and witnessed the birth of two children born to guests in the last year. We have all taken the extra duties involved in covering both house duties and regular hospital shifts. When a baby was born prematurely in June, we filled the NICU log book for the week of his stay.
These trips took a lot out of us, but as I reflect on them, I’m asking myself “Instead of as obligation or sacrifice, how can we look at these experiences through the lens of friendship?” To start this discussion, I’ll share three important points I’ve learned as I’ve stepped to the other side of my profession and accompanied women, as their friend, through medical crisis: