During the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s so important for healthcare providers to stand in solidarity with each other, as many of us work tirelessly to provide the care so desperately needed at this time. Our organization has been recognizing the heroism of our own staff, who go into homes and facilities across North Carolina to care for populations that can include the senior population and those with conditions deemed high-risk with regard to the coronavirus.
Over the last week, we added a new twist on our gratitude tour, according to April Dederick of the HealthKeeperz marketing team. “In the last several days, our sales and marketing representatives have visited 75 care facilities and clinics to thank our community partners and healthcare heroes across 10 counties in southeastern NC.”
Dederick, along with Michele Morgan, Ponce Chavis, Tito Massol, Shaneese Brown, Jeff Hunt, and Otara Mills, have placed signs thanking our partners and recognizing the healthcare heroes we collaborate with every day to give our patients a better quality of life. The facilities visited by the team include skilled nursing facilities, health clinics, assisted living and retirement communities, and facilities specializing in memory care.
For Massol, the pandemic is bringing the healthcare provider community together in a very human way. “The story here is that people need people,” he said. “Social isolation isn’t healthy, especially for prolonged periods. We hope that these signs remind our friends in these facilities and communities that we care about them and miss our connection to each place during this time. We think of it as a big HealthKeeperz version of a Hallmark card!”
“We appreciate everything they are doing to take care of their residents and patients, and they are constantly in our thoughts and prayers,” Massol added. “Part of our mission, caring for all people for the glory of God means caring for our partners, too.”
A favorite song of mine these days has the following refrain.
Come all who are weary
Come all who are broken hearted
Oh come now to Jesus
Come and lay your burdens down.
“He Reigns, --GhostShip
This refrain resonates so deeply with me, because it points us to a source of peace and rest that we all need, whether we are weary now or will be later. Our hearts have been, are presently, and/or will be broken in the future.
And what we need is a friend. And when He says “come, take a load off,” can actually help us unload our burdens. One of the great truths of the gospel is that Jesus bears “away” our sin. Along with the penalty of sin, Jesus also bears its burden. Shame is cast away. Fruitless toil for acceptance by God is gone.
Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection we are accepted as sons and daughters by our Heavenly Father. We find ourselves empowered by the Holy Spirit to walk in strength, even though we may be experiencing weariness. Broken hearts can be healed and kept soft, that we might love again.
Oh, my friend, if you find yourself overcome with grief, then let me point you to THE GOD OF ALL COMFORT! Jesus knows deeply and intimately the ache of every tear that fills the eye. Yet, He says, “come to me.” When God promises comfort for the weary, it is not through the waving of magic wands or the snapping of fingers, but through faith. Yes, faith. Trust. Belief.
Do you believe God, when He says that your suffering and hurting is purposeful? Do you trust Jesus to provide the strength and comfort that you need? Will you remain faithful to God in deed and heart? My friend, Jesus is not just an ancient Jewish carpenter who drummed up a public following because He could relate with the plight of His kinsman and thus spoke words of hope. No, Jesus is THE HOPE, the great King of Heaven who reigns supreme over all. He is THE creator of all that is seen and unseen.
He fashioned our emotions and our psyche. He knows our hearts. And this is precisely how he knows what we need in difficult times. But Jesus doesn’t simply know in some theoretical, disconnected way. Jesus Himself left heaven to come and live the human experience as a man. He experienced true hunger, exhaustion, joy, excitement, sadness, joy, disappointment, and fulfillment as a human.
The only part of the human experience He did not taste was the taste of sin. He did everything perfectly: no bad words, bad attitude, or bad thoughts. Beloved, if you leave this devotion with one thought, know that Jesus has identified with our humanity in all its sufferings, so that we might identify with His perfections. There’s a day coming when we will never be weary or broken-hearted again, because the very presence of sin and its effects upon the world will be annihilated. But in the meantime, Jesus says “Come to me, today.” Jesus gives the peace and rest of heaven today, by faith. So I end where I began:
Come all who are weary
Come all who are broken hearted
Oh come now to Jesus
Come and lay your burdens down.
Yours in Christ,
Chaplain James Chavis
When deciding to become a nurse, doctor, or physical therapist, few people consider the possibility that they might have to work the frontlines of a global pandemic. And yet, that’s exactly what we see our healthcare professionals doing now: bravely putting themselves at risk to watch over the rest of us.
Neither the Hippocratic oath nor the Nightingale pledge say anything about working during a pandemic. Rather, doctors and nurses are guided by a strong moral compass that goes above and beyond what they pledge to do at the start of their careers. Healthcare professionals have within them a drive to help people, no matter how difficult or dangerous it becomes to do so. This isn’t something expected or required of them; it’s an innate quality that motivates doctors and nurses to help in times of crisis. Their drive is so strong that most would rather put themselves in grave danger than not practice their craft.
Saying thank you to our healthcare professionals is no small feat. After all, how can you adequately thank someone who’s quite literally saving the world? Even if our efforts to show gratitude fall short of their efforts to save lives, we can still try. Thanking doctors, nurses, and all physicians who are helping out during this time is the least we can do.
Thank you, healthcare professionals, for taking a risk every day by coming into work to help us. Thank you for doing your best to save lives, even as hospitals become overcrowded and your work gets harder to do. Thank you for watching over our seniors and folks with preexisting conditions. Thank you for helping our family members, friends, and loved ones.
Thank you for continuing to come to work as so many of us stay home and keep away from others to protect our health. You don’t have the same luxury, and for that reason, we all feel for you and for your families. We don’t expect you to put your health at risk for us, but you do anyway, and for that we are all deeply grateful.
Whatever you do, whether in word or deed,
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God
the Father through him.
At HealthKeeperz, our home health professionals are a part of something much larger: a mission to care for all for the glory of God. Throughout this time of uncertainty and upheaval, they continue to embody this idea in a bold and beautiful way. We’re so proud to call our doctors, nurses, PTs, and OTs part of the HealthKeeperz family. Their unwavering passion for providing care is incredible, and we can’t thank them enough for it.
Psychologists, writers, and even the World Health Organization have argued that the measures we’re taking to slow the spread of COVID-19 – “social distancing” – could more aptly be called physical distancing. That’s because of the multitude of digital communication tools at our disposal, which make it easy to connect with others no matter how far away they are.
Just because you can’t be physically there with your mom, dad, or best friend doesn’t mean that you can’t be with them in voice and spirit. Phone calls and text messages may not provide the same endorphin rush as a big hug, but they do give us the feelings of connectedness that we need as human beings. For today’s article, we wanted to share a few creative ways of staying connected with your loved ones during physical distancing.
Idea #1: Digital Movie Night
Grab the blankets and popcorn – it’s time for a virtual movie night! Use videoconferencing software like Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom to connect with a family member or friend. Then, choose a movie that you both have access to, through platforms like Netflix or on-demand cable rentals. To avoid bandwidth issues, use separate devices to talk with your loved one and stream the movie. Be sure to press play at the same time. And bam, you’re watching a movie together – even if you are miles apart.
Idea #2: Long-Distance Family Trivia
Create your own set of trivia questions using your computer or a pen and paper. To add a personal twist, you might make the questions related to your family history and happenings (i.e., “What line did Dad famously mess up in the wedding vows?”). Gather a group of extended family members across multiple households, and host everybody on a videoconferencing platform. Having some kind of activity, like a trivia game, to guide video calls makes for a more engaging and bonding experience. Let the games begin!
Idea #3: Old-Fashioned Love Notes
There’s nothing quite as touching as receiving a handwritten letter in the mail; it has a certain old-fashioned magic about it that beats receiving a text ten times over. Take a few minutes out of your day to handwrite messages of love and support to your friends and family. Writing these notes is just as therapeutic as receiving them, and you’ll immediately feel a little bit better about everything once you stamp and send off your letter. As an added bonus, snail mail is perfect for the people in your life who aren’t comfortable using text or email, or simply prefer not to. (We all know them. I’m looking at you, Uncle Al!)
Idea #4: Gift Giving
Lord knows our budgets are tight at the moment, so it’s probably not the best time to purchase expensive gifts for those you love. But it’s a great time to send small, symbolic, and preferably handmade items that will cheer up friends and family. For example, what grandparent doesn’t love getting a personalized drawing from their grandchild? If you have any healthcare, delivery, or grocery workers in your circle of family and friends, now is the time to show your support by sending small DIY care packages. It doesn’t matter how much money you spend on a gift; what matters is the love and care that it stands for. Right now, we could all use some of that.
Across the nation and the entire world, gyms and sports clubs are closing their doors in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. But does that mean we have to put a temporary stop to our fitness plans, or put physical health on the backburner? Not at all! There are still a number of ways to get the exercise that we need, now more than ever, for both our physical and mental health. Let’s discuss.
Indoors – YouTube fitness videos. Gone are the days when we had to pay for high-quality workout videos. Now, they’re available for free online with just a few clicks of your mouse. YouTube has expert fitness instructors who can teach you everything from at-home kickboxing to yoga to wheelchair-friendly workouts. Fitness Blender is a great place to start because it has workout videos for people at all different levels, from those who have never tried working out a day in their life to the total fitness junkies. They’re simple, easy-to-follow, no-nonsense workout videos. For yoga, which is a great fitness activity for keeping the mind and body healthy, Yoga with Adriene is an incredible free resource for experienced yogis and beginners alike. She offers many practices tailored to individual physical abilities, like wheelchair yoga and yoga for seniors.
Outdoors – Going for walks. Did you know that walking for just 20 minutes per day can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke by eight percent? Walking is also a great way to enjoy the outdoors and get some fresh air after being cooped up in your house all day. Nearly all shelter-in-place orders include exceptions for walking, hiking, and other outdoor activities, so long as you maintain a distance of at least six feet from others. Take advantage of this by going for a stroll with your household members or your dog, or go by yourself and enjoy the peaceful solitude.
Indoors/Outdoors – Playing with kids (and grandkids). While having children and grandchildren stuck at home is certainly a challenge, it’s also an opportunity to strengthen your family relationships. What better way to bond with the kids in your household than by playing with them? Playing with kids will get you up and moving all around the house and backyard, whether it’s hide-and-seek, capture the flag, or duck duck goose. These games are a great way to increase your steps, and to tire kids out – remember, tired kids tend to be happier and more well-behaved.
Indoors – Cooking healthy meals together as a family. Many of us are paying more attention to eating healthy as a result of COVID-19 and in an effort to boost our immune systems. With everyone stuck at home together, it’s the perfect time to involve the whole family in cooking healthy meals and, in the process, teach children about nutrition. Cooking together is an excellent way to bond as a family, and after all, what kid doesn’t love playing in the kitchen? Easy-to-find, immune-boosting foods include oranges, lemons, limes, red bell peppers, broccoli, garlic, yogurt, and almonds.
The COVID-19 crisis is an unprecedented challenge for all of us, and it’s putting new strains on our mental health. After all, as humans, we are both highly social and highly anxious creatures. We’ve evolved to have these qualities because they help us survive – but they also make this time of social distancing, uncertainty, and fear extremely difficult. Nevertheless, it is possible to remain calm and maybe even happy during this period of global crisis. It requires taking an intentional and proactive approach to mental health, which we’ll discuss below in these tips for staying mentally healthy amid coronavirus.
Stick to a routine. Shelter-in-place orders, social distancing measures, and work-from-home requirements mean that we’re having to alter our daily routines significantly. But that doesn’t mean we have to let go of them entirely. In fact, doing so can lead us to feel disoriented, directionless, and unproductive. Sure, starting the day with two hours of Netflix may be fun for a day or two, but it soon starts to take a toll on mental health. Rather than giving into the tendency to shun routines in this time of vast change and uncertainty, create a new daily routine for yourself and/or your family, and stick to it. Following a routine is comforting and offers a sense of normalcy. It also boosts productivity and, when working from home, helps the day to feel more like a work day. With many of us having to balance work and watching children who are also stuck at home, it’s inevitable that our routines may change slightly from one day to the next – but having a basic pattern to follow each morning (i.e. wake up, eat breakfast, shower, get ready) is a fantastic way to set yourself up for a productive and relatively normal-feeling day.
Go outside. Many of us have been ordered to stay at home with the exception of essential travel, but most of these shelter-in-place orders include exceptions for outdoor activities like hiking so long as we maintain a safe distance from others (about six feet). Staying inside all day is a recipe for stir-craziness and claustrophobia. As often as possible, get outside, whether it’s by yourself or with others in your household. Play family games in the backyard. Walk the dog around the neighborhood. Go for a hike at a local nature trail. Enjoying the great outdoors makes us feel happier, offers a sense of freedom, and keeps cabin fever at bay – not to mention, it’s a great way to wear kids out and keep them happy. Just be sure to stay at least six feet away from others (excluding household members) at all times.
Minimize your exposure to news media. While it’s important to stay informed about things that affect our health and safety, checking the news every hour during a time like this can be detrimental to mental wellness. Realistically, you will be fine without knowing the number of new coronavirus cases or deaths in a certain country – in fact, you’ll probably be better off not knowing. Checking the news obsessively can lead to feelings of hopelessness, depression, and constant fear. Try a system where you and another adult in your household take turns checking the news once each day. This way, you’ll stay informed about any important updates in your area, but won’t become overloaded by doom and gloom.
Meditate. Despite common misconceptions, everyone is capable of meditating. It’s not easy and at times may feel uncomfortable, but it’s one of the best things we can do for our mental health. Meditation trains our brains to remain focused on the present moment rather than becoming lost in anxiety and fears about the future. Start by focusing on your breath for just five minutes a day – paying attention to the slow rise and fall of your inhale and exhale. Let it soothe you, like the sound of waves rising and falling in the ocean. Many people find it helpful to either begin or end their meditation practice by reading a calming passage from the Bible.
When anxiety was great within me
Your consolation brought me joy.
A few years ago, I sat across from a friend in the food court at UNC-Chapel Hill Medical Center. I listened to a friend describe his family’s desire for “normalcy.” You see, his child, who at the time was four or five years old, had already undergone multiple major surgeries. Some were corrective in nature, while others were designed to simply improve quality of life.
Think about that. A five-year-old needs major operations simply to improve the quality of their life. Five-year-olds should experience life “enjoyment” by eating more ice cream rather than life “improvement” by the hands of the best pediatric neurologists.
Nevertheless, this had become a familiar experience for my friend’s child and his family. At the same time, my family was learning to navigate a “new normal” brought on by health problems for my wife. I shared with my friend an idea, but better yet, a truth that had helped my family. I simply asked, “Who decides what is normal?”
If we truly believe Jeremiah 29:11, we’ll know who decides:
“11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Hearing these words, we must then embrace the reality that what we may call normal, God may call yesterday’s plan. If there is one thing I have learned in the nearly twenty-five years that I have been following Jesus, it is that I need new mercies each morning. Why? Because each day has its own challenges and its own victories. When I demand normalcy, God insists on greater things for me through change. When I ask, “why can’t it be different,” He gently replies, “It will be, but on My terms, because I will give you a future and a hope.”
Today, billions of people cry out for “normalcy.” Amid a global health pandemic, when nothing about the future is certain, it would seem that a little normalcy would do us good. But again, I ask, who defines normalcy for you?
It’s been necessary to remind myself that COVID-19 did not take God by surprise. All that happens in the world on any given day is a normal occurrence for God. And everything that happens in my day is precisely part of God’s plans for welfare in my life. In Romans 8, the Apostle Paul teaches that since God, our father, has given His son, Jesus, as a substitute to pay the death penalty for our sins, which is the best gift we could ever receive, will He not also give us all things? That is to say, if God is for us, who (or what) can be against us?
Beloved, we must not forget that God is unchanging, and He is faithful to shower us with His lovingkindness and endless mercy. No trial will ever be wasted or rendered pointless. And even a coronavirus must yield and bow its knee to the one true God, creator of heaven and earth. The effects of such viruses indeed only exist because of Adam’s original sin. But this virus does run maverick around the world. Just as God draws a line in the sand for the waves of the sea, so does He say, “…this far virus, and no further.”
You see, then, every day is a “normal” day because God is in control, and things will only become abnormal when He loses control. So praise God that every day is filled with new circumstances measured out by a kind and gracious God who says I will be your strength (Psalm 46) needed to navigate another normal day.
May we embrace the faith-strengthening work of God day by day.
Yours in Christ,
Chaplain James Chavis
Five short years ago, the president of HealthKeeperz, Tim Brooks, introduced a new organizational initiative known as “The Barnabas Culture.” Intended to foster a spirit of encouragement and caring for all for the glory of God, this culture was modeled after the disciple Barnabas – a role model of faith and compassion. With this new culture came a new recognition program: the quarterly Barnabas Award. Since 2015, employees have been encouraged to nominate a coworker each quarter who embodies HealthKeeperz’ core values of:
In this series, Portraits of Barnabas, we highlight the winners of this prestigious honor. Today, we’ll introduce you to Shaneese Smith, Outreach Coordinator for the Fayetteville area and winner of our fourth quarterly Barnabas Award for 2019.
In her year and a half at HealthKeeperz, Shaneese has already made a tremendous impact on the organization and larger Fayetteville community. As Outreach Coordinator, she markets home health, hospice, and medical equipment services to hospitals and HealthKeeperz offices throughout Cumberland County. Having previously worked in hospitals for eight years, she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in working with people during their most stressful and difficult times.
Like many previous Barnabas Award winners, Shaneese was taken by complete surprise when she found out she won.
“They told us we had an emergency meeting, so I was like, ‘Uh-oh, I’m in trouble,’” she recalled. “But then Tim said he was about to announce the Barnabas Award winner, and I’m thinking, ‘What?!’ He announced that it was me and I was just so shocked. I’m a crybaby, so of course I cried. I was just shocked and honored.”
Again keeping in fashion with past winners, Shaneese thought for sure it would go to one of her hardworking colleagues. “There’s a social worker that was nominated as well, and another marketer, and I feel like they very much live that Barnabas culture,” she said. “So I just knew it would be one of them.”
Evidently, Shaneese was wrong – happily so. “It was so exciting,” she said. “It was a very special moment, just to know that my coworkers would think to nominate me. I still feel like I’m pretty new here, so for them to vote for me and believe that I’m an example of the culture, it was an honor.”
In her work doing outreach and marketing, Shaneese applies HealthKeeperz values on a daily basis. Talk to her about her work for just a few minutes, and you’ll quickly see why she was named a Barnabas Award winner.
“I try to be patient with everyone and to always have a smile on my face,” Shaneese said. “That’s number one. Even if I’m not having the best day, I always try to have a smile on my face, because you don’t know what someone’s going through in their day-to-day. So I always try to be nice and thoughtful of others – whether it’s my customers, my fellow coworkers, or our patients.”
Shaneese wants to share this honor with the home health and hospice team, who “always welcomes me in as one of their own,” and the marketing team, which she describes as “very family-oriented.”
“Some days when I feel down or don’t feel very Barnabas, they bring me up,” she said. “We always give each other that boost. Recently I had the flu, and everyone checked in on me and sent me cards. They don’t have to do that stuff, but they do.”
She also said that having the Barnabas Culture behind her helps her be a better marketer. “Our number one priority is to make sure all our patients and customers are taken care of,” Shaneese said, “and that’s easier to do when you have this culture standing behind you, acting as a role model for you to follow.”
Shaneese’s favorite thing about working at HealthKeeperz? The family environment. “I feel like we’re all family,” she said. “They’re my sisters and brothers. I could talk to them about anything, and I love when they talk to me about stuff going on in their lives. The family vibe is everything.”
We’re thrilled to congratulate Shaneese on this big win, and want to thank all those on the marketing and home health/hospice teams who provided support along the way. Stay tuned for further announcements on Barnabas Award quarterly winners!
In the year 2020, most people know what it means to “give a shout-out” to someone. But, and at the risk of stating the obvious, let’s consider some of the meanings that a simple Google search will turn up:
So with these meanings in mind, let’s define “giving a shout-out” as “publicly expressing appreciation for someone because of some good they have done.”
In 2015 the president of HealthKeeperz, Tim Brooks, made a visit to each Healthkeeperz office to introduce a new organizational culture initiative that he called “The Barnabas Culture.” The Barnabas Culture was the name given to what was described as a culture of encouragement that Tim desired to see fostered within HealthKeeperz. At that time, The Barnabas Culture goal was articulated as HealthKeeperz wanting “to be an organization filled with people who are caring, selfless, humble and encouraging.”
Those four characteristics were taken from what we know about a man named Joseph, whose nickname was Barnabas, in the New Testament book of Acts. Luke, the writer of Acts also known for his Gospel, refers to Joseph by his given name only once at his introduction. After that, he refers to him by his nickname, Barnabas, each time he appears in the narrative. And that was 23 times after his introduction!
This significance here lies in the meaning of the name, Barnabas. Luke records the following in Acts 4:46:
“Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement)…”
You see, Joseph was so well-known for his character, as opposed to his given name, that his character became his identity! From other scriptures, it appears that Joseph’s conversion and faith in Jesus had a profound effect on his life, such that who he once was became overshadowed by who he became through his faith in Christ. Thus, it constituted a complete name change—not just any name, but one that is fitting of the characteristic, which is now the impulse of every action and sweetness of every word. What a great name to behold, and become through Christ a son of encouragement.
If I am recalling correctly, it was the desire of HealthKeeperz’s leadership that the company would no longer be as it had been. Something of eternal value and importance had gripped their hearts, and they believed that it changed everything. Indeed, God was orchestrating a culture shift, where the primary goal would be to have a workplace culture of encouragement that cares for all people for the glory of God.
Now, what does a history of the Barnabas Culture at HealthKeeperz and the concept of “shout-outs” have to do with each other?
For five years, starting back in February of 2015, each quarter, all HealthKeeperz employees have been encouraged to nominate a coworker for the quarterly Barnabas Award. The nominations are based on our company’s core values, which are:
The idea is that when you see a coworker living out our core values, we should nominate them for being a Barnabas. In the spring of each year, HealthKeeperz hosts the Barnabas Award Banquet. At the banquet, we celebrate our culture of encouragement through being together and sharing in a meal, to see one of the four quarterly award-winners chosen as what we endearingly call the “Super Barnabas.” This event has been our way of giving a shout-out to our coworkers for a job well done and a life example worth following.
So to my coworkers at HealthKeeperz, here’s a shout-out to all of you. With God’s help, may we continue to make HealthKeeperz a place of encouragement for those who work here and a source of compassionate care for the many lives touched by us all!
Happy fifth anniversary to the Barnabas Culture!
Yours in Christ,
Chaplain James Chavis
A Brief History of the Beloved Holiday
There are many stories about the legendary Saint Valentine and who he really was, but the popular belief is that Valentine's Day derives its name from a Roman priest active in the third century AD. This particular Saint Valentine served under Emperor Claudius II, who, according to legend, banned marriages among his soldiers because he believed married men made bad fighters.
Saint Valentine, understanding the absolute power of love, felt that this was unjust. He decided to break the rules and marry soldiers to their beloved ones in secret. Legend has it, he wore a purple amethyst ring with the figure of Cupid engraved upon it as a symbol of his clandestine mission. Roman soldiers would recognize this special ring and know that it was safe to ask him to perform marriage for them.
But Claudius found out about this covert marriage operation, threw Saint Valentine in jail, and sentenced him to death. While waiting in jail, he fell in love with the jailer's daughter, Julia. Some legends say that he even healed her lifelong blindness, persuading the jailer, Asterius, and his entire family to believe in Jesus and become baptized.
Nonetheless, Saint Valentine was still sentenced to be killed, and on the evening before his execution, he wrote the world's first Valentine card. It was addressed to his true love, Julia, and signed as, "Your Valentine." This expression has been adopted for use on modern Valentine's Day cards around the world.
Julia went on to plant a pink-blossomed almond tree next to Saint Valentine's grave, and to this day, the almond tree--as well as the amethyst worn on Saint Valentine's finger--remain symbols of his enduring love and friendship.
The legitimacy of this tale and other have come into question by many a historian through the years, but regardless, it's still fun to believe in such a sweeping and romantic story. Whether true or not, Saint Valentine has gone down in history as the most romantic martyr in the Christian faith. Perhaps you can impress your valentine this year by sharing this story.
We'd like to wish you and your loved ones a very happy Valentine's Day. Whether you're celebrating with your spouse, best friend, or family, Valentine's Day is a great opportunity to express our love for one another and to simply appreciate being together here on Earth. We're certainly grateful for your presence in our HealthKeeperz family.
Happy Valentine's Day!