By Norris Burkes Aug 28 2020

Last week, I opened my Facebook account to find an encouraging video shared by my former employer, St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Stockton, Calif.

The rousing production gave me happy chills to see “Lewis” walk through a crowd of cheering employees who were celebrating him – their 500th COVID-19 patient to be discharged.

 After watching the clip, I dabbed my eyes and returned to scrolling Facebook. 

The brief inspiration was soon negated by other posts from folks using the cut-and-paste method to express their nonoriginal thoughts. Some blame the “deep state” for withholding the cure to COVID-19. Others see the virus as a giant hoax perpetrated by dishonest media.

It’s as if these critics want to switch out the legitimate peer-reviewed studies for their own version of mix-and-match science. They tout answers they get from the backside of the Internet and repost those that relieve them of their social responsibilities. 

Not willing to remain silent, I posted something of my own. And since I don’t plan to “friend” all of you, I took the liberty of quoting myself below.  

“If you really are my friend, read my post. I wrote the entire thing. No puppet repetition here. 

My best friend, Roger Williams, is the chaplain manager at St. Joseph’s Medical Center. I once worked there so I can tell you they do great work.”

To date, these healthcare heroes have treated hundreds of COVID-positive patients and miraculously discharged over 500 of them.

But as is the case nationally, you might well imagine the dozens of St. Joe patients who didn’t make it home.

I concluded my post by affirming, “I can personally attest that this is real and not a hoax. Do your part to support our heroes. You can bring America back to work and school again if you will simply – Wear a mask.”

No, the posting didn’t go viral, but I felt a little better. 

But do you know who’s not feeling better? Many of these healthcare heroes.

They are telling their chaplains that they are wounded, walking among the wounded. They are hurt and disheartened, leaving crumbling pieces of their hearts on the floor.

Sadly, some of their discouragement may possibly be your fault.

Yes, I said “your fault.” 

Hold this column up close to your eyes. I’ve got something I want you to hear. 

While healthcare workers often pass unscathed through fiery trials, they are blistering from the extra heat of today’s social media. Workers are saddened by the conversations they overhear from anti-maskers who deny the science, calling COVID a hoax or an exaggeration. 

They interpret this social-media criticism as the very definition of “shooting the messenger.” 

They have given us hard-to-hear news based on real science and real treatment. And now they must take shelter from the bombardment of disrespect inflicted upon them by local jokers who repost conspiracies and junk science to Facebook.

The fake news from internet pontificators is hurting real people. These people have real names and families like my chaplain colleagues and the nursing staff they support.

So, if you really want to sustain our medical community heroes, stop the spread of the Internet conspiracy stories. Stop them by thoughtfully and respectfully engaging the subject. Stop the spread of “cut-and-paste” opinions and replace them with the real stories of heroes like the St. Joseph’s staff.

As one who has spent nearly 25 years in healthcare chaplaincy, I can tell you that there isn’t much that discourages hospital workers. I’m confident they will emerge from this as the most resilient people you’ll ever know. 

God forbid that you or your loved ones become sick, but if you do, you have my word that my friends in the medical community will take good care of you. They will do this no matter what your political persuasion and no matter how many viral posts you’ve shared.

That’s a promise you can take to the bank.

But I prefer you simply take my column and – POST IT. 


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