A Hospital in the Heart of Capitalism

The Dow Jones had one of its unhappiest setbacks after it went down with 777 points when the US Congress rejected the $700B Bush bailout plan for ailing private companies. Absolutely a bummer for the Prez! In this time of capitalism going through a crisis, or what UP Professor Randy David had diagnosed as “the humbling of American capitalism,” a lot of anxieties and speculations could also mushroom foremost is the issue of economic security for every ordinary American. From a synoptic point of view, it seems less contentious to say that the situation signals the need to re-evaluate the values of corporate America stretched to its extreme as a debunkable ideology. Take Catholicism which is both an ideology and as a way of life. If I hang on to Catholicism as an ideology, the tendency is to trump the ecumenical spirit of my Christian faith, believing that my Catholic faith is the “real” thing – a very constrictive way of Christian living. But if on a daily basis, I allow it to “in-form” (formation of the within) my way of life with its beautiful liturgical rhythm the year round, and take to mind and heart its conscience for the communal life, then, ecumenical as my approach is, I remain grounded and grateful for my Catholic faith and for the rich soil to grow up with.

I take a modest parallel musing with corporate capitalism as an ideology  – it is Darwinian in its spirit of competition; individualistic as splinter-prone Protestantism; and materialistic as the pragmatic philosophy that fuels it. Take competition or individualism or materialism to their extreme and you figure out what will explode. My wild guess – the human ego! But what of capitalism’s admirable credentials? Let me just enumerate without elaborating: the courage to be creative; the radical openness to change and newness; the motivation to constantly rise above mediocrity; and the tolerance over differences. You can add yours. Let’s get to the lighter side of this post.

I finished my residency in chaplaincy with the MD Anderson Cancer Center, often ranked by the US News and World Report as the no. 1 cancer center in America (competition, ahemm). Rank aside, at one phase of my life, I imbibed its work ethic and drive for excellence – mainly for the sake of the cancer community it serves. I also shared its employees’ high satisfaction rating because akin to a healthy body, the unique members of the system receive enough nourishment. Beyond the trinity of competition, individualism, and materialism, it operates on a larger mission for the community – to make cancer history. MD Anderson to me is one institution in a capitalist soil that is life-and-spirit-nurturing. At the graduation ceremony, I had so much fun recalling my 2-year residency I ended up with this playful piece in lieu of a long, nostalgic valedictory:

Looking Back

Many miles of oceans to cross,
seeing God in a friendly apartment locator,
of black and white and brown and yellow races to mingle with,
mesmerized by MD anderson’s facade as huge as its heart and vision,
greeters all over the place like caffeine for a hazy morning.

Is this a hotel or a department store with its fancy park and escalators?
Need for translators? Have you read those ads on every elevator?
Yes! Vietnamese, or Arabic, or Spanish, or English of every accent available.
Or a city within a city with its 16,000 employees?
Music and auditorium, room service and popcorn, hotel and chapel,
children’s park and souvenir shops,
of gardens and fountains and aquariums,
patients may tour those nearby museums.
Parking may not be teeny-weeny, but hey,
buses swarm the Bertner way!

Work could get exhausting,
skybridges and shuttles to the ACB, excuse me –
they’re not cheap for sightseeing.
Sigh! Yes, a student chaplain overwhlemed,
with the running code blue team suddenly stopped by a call cancelled.
Should I thank God after a heart-pounding run and a screeching halt?
“And why not,” asked God ethically:

Night call: here’s the night and day owl again,
always caught in-between the creepy darkness of the on-call room and
the hair-raising midnight sound of a code blue test,
not to mention the wearying grill of peers the next day.
Of course there’s fun and food, treats and benefits,
even if one is (always?) scared to look at her paycheck,
how much teacher retirement is kept.
Thanks for those creepy moments,
thanks for those fun-filled moments!

To all my friends out there in the grip of the economic gurgling – stay cool, enjoy the bayous!


Photo credits in the same order:



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