Sometimes the movers and shakers of this town are disguised to the general public but shine brightly within a small community. The patients of St. Joseph’s Hospital on Charlton Ave have such a person.
John McCarthy goes beyond his role as cleaning staff, offering patients an animated ray of sunshine during his room visits. John not only provides a thorough service, diligent in keeping equipment clean and sterile, but his presence creates an atmosphere of joy and humour mixed with quirkiness and kindness.
Sliding Hollywood-style into the room, yet silent and unobtrusive, John ducks behind oxygen machines, telling gentle tales that highlight the plight of the long-term resident patients. This provides an understanding for those who have recently arrived on the ward, or are fortunate enough to be short stay residents that wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to know their fellow sufferers. John’s communication with patients and their visitors while carrying out his regular duties enables people to understand each other.
On the ward, John quells irritation and fear that patients experience when they hear others crying out in pain or despair. Understanding others is a universal concept that we can all aim to adopt and it’s this self-appointed task that John carries out which led me to pinpoint him as one of Hamilton’s movers and shakers.
John has multiple ear piercings, a shaven head, and a missing tooth. He is slight of build and mentions staff members fondly. He touches on the humanity of all the other characters on the ward, and believe me, there are characters. John makes visitors’ and patients’ lives more colourful for his appearance. Unfortunate circumstances may have led Hamiltonians to John, but their situation is lifted temporarily as he does more than keep their souls infection-free during their stay.
Living right across the street from the hospital, John wakes each day with gratitude. He takes fifteen minutes to appreciate the day before his shift. A modest concentration on the self, renewing the love in his heart that he states is the greatest vibration.
Seven years ago, John left the tool and dye business to start work in the stores department at St. Joe’s. It was the best thing he ever did because he can be himself. He says he feels lucky that he doesn’t miss factory work at all.
What keeps John in his role at St. Joe’s is the diversity and his love for people. He says he has the same love for everybody and considers their wellness and who they are over their illness. John read about mindfulness one day in the elevator and went on to look up healers. He said he was looking for something in his heart. John learned to meditate four and a half years ago and says the power of his thoughts control his life. He replaces negative thoughts with positive ones. Here I reflect on a similar model used in behaviour therapy and realize John’s intuitive nature.
John says that given a trillion dollars, he would be the foster parent of the world. I tell him that in a way, he already is. John’s favourite aspect of the job is putting love into it saying, “I don’t put a condition on my job. I’m proactive and I co-operate. There is no purpose to arguing.”
John continues to say that he is going to get a coach to explain how happy he feels all the time. I laugh, because although John refers to a life coach, I picture a bus of Hamiltonians learning the route to happiness.
When told that I considered him a mover and shaker in Hamilton, he responds with thankful praise. He says that if others can see what he sees then he is hopeful. His desire is for anything that makes us more positive. John hesitates before saying, “I’m glad when they go home. I mean, I’m happy for them.” Here, I can sense his wistfulness before he blurts, “And when they go to heaven… I think of them. I know they are there.”
I remember leaving the ward. How I glanced back and reflected on John who slipped back noiselessly and animatedly through the lives of the ill. I believe this won’t be the last time I see him.