Example of a staff profile, commonly used to build loyalty among clients and foster deeper sense of connection to an organization or brand.
A prison. A deathbed. A hospital ward.
Places that conjure up fear, images of loss. Places most of us seek to avoid at all costs.
Not Tisha Moore. As a volunteer, Moore willingly enters the lives of people who are dying, who are hospitalized, and even those who are behind bars.
She says it brings her life greater meaning.
A research coordinator at the University of Michigan, Moore lived what she describes as a comfortable and relatively insulated life until a cycling accident in 2007 left her with multiple injuries and a host of existential questions.
A practicing Buddhist, active at the local Zen Temple since the late 1990s, Moore said the anxiety she experienced after her accident tested her spiritual practice and caused her to re-evaluate her life choices.
Extensive rest and rehabilitation meant weeks out of work. It was during this time that Moore relied on her Buddhist meditation practice to help her sit with her the pain and anxiety she lived with daily after the accident. Meditation, she said, brought her to a feeling of surprising aliveness, which in turn, motivated her to want to help people experiencing similar traumas.
And so, after her recovery, Moore became a hospice volunteer.
She Just “Got It”
“One of the greatest fears we have in our culture is dying alone,” Moore explained. “The research I have been doing at work was important, but the hospice work gave me an opportunity use more of myself.”
Moore participated in the By Your Side program, which entails sitting with patients who are dying alone. Moore also visits to relieve caregivers, keeps patients company, or offers threshold singing.
“Whatever was happening, Tisha was able to read the situation and bring whatever comfort the patient and family needed,” said Arbor Hospice Volunteer Coordinator Brittany August. “She just ‘got it.'”
“If there is a sense of feeling the presence of God in a room, that’s where I have most felt it,” said Moore, who was named Volunteer of the Year at Michigan’s 2009 conference for hospice workers.
If there is a sense of feeling the presence of God in a room, that’s where I have most felt it.
And Off to Seminary
The work made such an impact on Moore personally, in fact, that it prompted her to change career paths. While still working part time at her university research job, she became a seminary student at Chicago’s Mead Lombard Theological School, training to become a hospital chaplain.
Moore says that she didn’t realize right away that her response to the accident would lead to a career change, but one thing was immediately clear as she wondered whether there would be long-term repercussions from her injuries.
“Having this really radical shift in my idea of my own mortality gave me this incentive to ask, am I living my life passionately? Am I living my life according to my own highest ideals?”
Her pursuit of the answers to these questions led her not only to hospice bedsides, but also to the Huron Valley Women’s Correctional Facility, which houses nearly 1,000 federal prisoners categorized at security levels I, II, and V, according to its website. In her quest to alleviate suffering in the world, Moore also spent nearly a year teaching a meditation class and a Sunday morning Buddhist religious service to inmates there.
She said she was drawn there by strong feelings about how people in American society land behind bars, which she describes below.
Maggie Hostetler, a member of Ann Arbor’s Zen Buddhist community who supervised Moore’s prison work, said “Tisha really dedicated herself to these women. Her presence, her way of being, which is very warm and positive, made an immediate difference.”
Finding the Universality
Moore said she became quite attached to the women in her classes and found it hard to say goodbye. But eventually, the prison work had to give way to make space for a chaplaincy internship at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Additionally, as part of her seminary training, Moore became a Minister Intern at the Northwest Unitarian Universalist Church in Southfield.
Moore says that while ministering at the church is less intense than being at the prison, the hospital, or hospice, the people in her congregation have needs that are just as profound.
“For patients and prisoners, pain is part of their identity. Their pain obvious to all of us. They have IVs in their arms. They are literally behind bars,” she notes.
“But all of us — whether or not it’s obvious — have pain,” Moore said. “It may be family pain, or pain related to illness, trauma, or aging. The ironic thing is, sometimes, the ability to hide one’s suffering makes it even more isolating.”
~For Washtenaw Community College, March 2012.