Minding the Gap at Edgewood High School
|Sue Richards voluteers in Guatemala.|
by Jim Baltus, Mission Coordinator, Associate, and EHS Religious Studies Teacher
A prominent sign in Sue Richards’ office at Edgewood High School (EHS), Madison, WI, reads “Mind the Gap,” inspiration for “exploring what’s not there and what could be’’ through opportunities that await us through new doors, especially those that open with a pandemic. How we proceed matters. Sue proceeding with compassion has made all the difference.
Sue Richards is EHS’s school nurse. Sue and her husband of 31 years have three sons, all of whom graduated from Edgewood Campus and High School. Sue is also a master gardener and a beekeeper. Being grounded in Earth and the lifecycles of other-than-human species has no doubt nurtured her own call to being a guide for people on their own journeys and moments when new doors open before them. Sue’s vocation as a registered nurse began at the University of Wisconsin cardiac transplant unit and continued later as a parish nurse. It was just months before the pandemic when EHS’s president, Mike Elliott, approached Sue informing her of the need for a skilled nurse at school. Sue accepted the offer and began updating immunization records for every student. Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Updating immunization records had been vital as Sue assisted EHS’s COVID task force with developing strategies to best protect and serve its community. The immense challenges imposed by the pandemic invoked Sue to practice “minding the gap” where she cited being nimble and advocating for whatever need would arise to be her guiding principles.
Though Sue completed a course in spiritual direction four years ago, her guidance and inspiration to others is a natural unfolding of her own life journey not only with family and through nursing but also mission work domestically and in Guatemala and Honduras. And with compassion being our school’s theme for the year (EHS focuses on one of the Sinsinawa values each year for its spiritual growth, prayer, and professional development), Sue’s ministry as a nurse vividly shines as a witness to compassion manifested through listening and tending to people’s hurts and anxiety. A student may come to her because of a headache, laceration, or stomach ache after eating an entire habanero pepper, but also sometimes just to talk and to be heard. If they need a moment of rest, Sue will provide the space and the comfort. Sue cares for faculty and staff with the same steadfastness and provides support for their well-being. During the height of COVID and virtual learning, Sue provided regular health and wellness updates and inspired faculty and staff to move their bodies in- or outdoors, restore their minds, and on a weekly basis count their steps. She added up those cumulative steps and invited her colleagues on virtual journeys in the world to destinations measured out by those very steps and miles. She included mesmerizing descriptions of the destinations and their people, and in doing so reminded us of our interconnection with others and the vitality of humanity. That is compassion.