Firstly, I felt huge admiration for all the NHS staff. It didn't matter whether someone was cleaning up after me, serving lunch, attaching a drip or giving an expert diagnosis; the care and attention were first class. People that most of us (hopefully) rarely come across in a professional capacity ensured not only that I was well cared for but also that I felt well cared for.
Secondly, I experienced some of the empathy and patience that is part of our care service. In both A&E and later in the acute medical unit, patients who were confused and relatives who were distressed were given time and attention in an extremely pressured environment. This personal care was present both in the early hours of the morning and in the middle of the day from people who seemed to have a natural vocation to be alongside others in their time of need.
Many of the hospital staff were people of faith and found time to reflect with me on discovering that I was a vicar, but good will and caring is part of the natural human condition. While I personally felt a bit silly for getting bitten when walking in the New Forest in sandals, this was never pointed out to me. I, along with every other patient there, was a valued individual at a time of need.
My overriding experience? It’s the natural care instinct awakened in every human on encountering someone in need. The other side to that personal experience is how do we care for those that we are not physically alongside, the abstract statistic or distant news story? How do we care for the refugees in Calais, or do we just fear them becoming a swarm? How do we care for those crossing the Mediterranean in flimsy boats or are we happy to leave that problem to our poorer European neighbours in Greece and Italy? If we met these people face-to-face and saw the trauma in their eyes, then I'm sure we would begin to see things differently, share some of their pain and our natural urge to care would be awakened.
Christianity is a fleshly faith. We proclaim that God became flesh and experienced all the joy and pain of a human life in the wandering prophet Jesus. That experience included humiliation, torture and death. No human being, no matter how abhorrently a regime or band of fanatics treats them, is beyond the love and experience of God. No human being should be beyond our love and care. If a daft wandering sandal wearing parson is within the care of the NHS, how much more should the refugee be within the care of this country and their experience written on our hearts.