Monday, May 22, 2017

Where the Wild Things Are

A Befriender story from pediatrics.

You win some, you lose some, but at all times you stand your ground. I don’t know where the Child Development Person is now but the Befrienders are still a part of the Spiritual Care Ministry at both Genesis and Trinity Hospitals in the Quad Cities. Early in the Befriender hospital visiting we sent Befrienders to pediatrics where they read to children. One Befriender, a former teacher, was especially good at picking a book that spoke to the child. On this day she picked Where the Wild Things Are since the referral from the nurse came with the message, “(the child’s name) is restless and having difficulty sleeping.”

The child welcomed the Befriender and the reading. When she finished reading Where the Wild Things Are the child asked for some paper and a pencil. He began poking holes in the paper until the paper was full of holes. Then he laid back down in bed and fell asleep. I heard the story during debriefing Befrienders before they left to go home at noon.

Unfortunately the Social Work manager decided a Child Development Person should be on pediatrics instead of the Befrienders.  We were asked to leave. I did call for a conference to discuss the matter knowing the Social Worker was a social friend of the administrator. We lost out. Hospital politics are a reality. 

Over the long haul the Befrienders won out for story listening with patients. We celebrated our 50th year last year.

I haven’t heard anything abut Child Development on pediatrics. Then as a retired chaplain I have no great desire to know other than to find out if Befrienders are back visiting children in pediatrics.

Sendak has a knack for communicating with children and the hospital was our proving grounds.

This email resource was from my brother Ron via the New York Times is timely.

“I've always been a fan of Sendak, especially Where the Wild Things Are. All our kids read it to their kids.”

To be continued,

Marlin Whitmer, Ret. Hospital Chaplain, BCC

Founder of the Befrienders in 1966 at St. Luke’s Hospital, Davenport, Iowa


  1. You persisted, Marlin! Isn't it sad when "professionals" can't abide meddling volunteers who offer effective service for the little, the least, and the lost.

    1. I like the word persistence. My brother says I am a bull dog that doesn't let go.

  2. I am glad to have played a small part in that 50 year legacy!

    1. Thanks for taking part. Clergy participation has been very important in the development of the program.

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