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Devotion: Out with Resolutions, In with Resiliency!

On January 12, the choir gathered to rehearse for the first time in 2016. Sarah Koepp, a member of the National Lutheran Choir's alto section, shared this devotion with the choir prior to rehearsal. Resiliency is the new Resolution.
Ahhhh ... New Year’s. I saw many articles this new year about not setting resolutions. Sort of a boycott on resolutions. And I have to say I sort of agree! I’m just never very good at them. I should resolve to unsubscribe to the many junk emails I seem to be on. And I should resolve to be better about helping my kids figure out how to keep track of their school library books….but those things may or may not happen in 2016. Instead of Resolutions, I’ve been intrigued with Resiliency -- a buzz word right now. 

Resiliency is a topic I became aware of as I’ve been writing, researching, writing, researching…..and writing, researching for my graduate degree in Nursing Administration. One topic I’ve researched a LOT is nursing turnover. Did you ever wonder how long the average first-year nurse spends before leaving his/her position? I didn’t think so. Well, 2014 data shows that 20% percent of newly licensed RNs, brand-new graduate nurses, leave their first nursing job within that first year, 30% leave within two years. 
I do not have APA citations or a reference page at the end of this devotion so the following was just a quick search, but for teachers: 20% change jobs after one year and 50% leave teaching all together within 5 years. Data on pastors was a little more complex to find but one article I read said 35-40% of pastors actually do leave the ministry, most after only five years.
So how does resiliency come into play? Well – resiliency is a learned behavior to combat stressful or new or tiresome or burned-out situations. So in my particular field of being a Nurse Manager, one of the antidotes to turnover is increasing resiliency. I don’t want any nursing turnover in my staff! So, in December, I did a resiliency exercise with my nursing staff and I wanted to share what happened.
Remember the gratitude journals that were so popular a few years back? "What was great about today" sort of thing? Practicing resiliency is sort of like that but meatier. Not only what was great, but what did I do to contribute to that greatness of today? How did I make a difference? Now you wouldn’t think a group of nurses would have trouble thinking of things they do that make a difference but it was hard, uncomfortable, and a little fearful for my employees. I hung with it, though, and had everyone write just ONE thing on a piece of paper. It seemed to take FOREVER but eventually we all got it done. I gathered all the sticky notes and then I read them out loud. The exercise had amazing results. Here are just a few:
  • I advocated for a patient in severe pain to receive more pain medications
  • I supported and coached a patient through a colonoscopy prep
  • I sat with a depressed and suicidal patient until they felt they could be alone
  • I helped a patient remain comfortable while dying
WOW. The amazement and change in staff after I read them were palpable. Remember, it’s not just what was great about today but what did I personally do to make a difference? And I think resiliency can apply to our rehearsals for the second half of the year. The always powerful All Saints and the glory of the Christmas concerts in the Basilica are behind us. How will we stay resilient for the remainder of our season? And it’s not just the season – resiliency can apply to many of us in this room. When I talked about turnover rates – some of us have been with the choir longer than any one job position. This is my 15th (or is it 16th?) season. So as we go about the second half of our season, I challenge you not to make an NLC resolution, but instead to do an NLC resiliency exercise. Not just what went well about tonight’s rehearsal, but what did you do that makes a difference to this group, our sound, and our music-making? To the people who are lifted by what we do? It’s time to re-engage our hearts, minds, attitudes, and voices in the business of making music.
I’ll close with an after-Christmas poem by Howard Thurman entitled “The Work of Christmas.”
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.