Ministering Godís Love in Word and Song Ė Meet Kathleen Fairman Ö
Interview by Lynda Schab
FWM: Kathleen, you've been a member of FaithWriters for only two months (one of the "newbies," as we would say). How did you find us?
KATHLEEN: I think that I just ran a web search on something like "Christian writers groups" on Google. I had become interested in doing more with my writing, and wanted to find a community of writers that I could connect with. I was so thrilled to find Faithwriters, because it seemed like a group of caring people and it offered services that I think beginning writers, like me, need. I was also especially attracted by the weekly Writing Challenges.
FWM: Speaking of the Writing Challenge, you immediately jumped right in and even received a "Highly Commended" award for, "Every Woman's Guide to an Informative Vacation," the second Challenge you entered. What was it about the writing challenge that appealed to you?
KATHLEEN: Well, some of it is probably my personality. I just like a challenge. Reading the past winnersí stories, I was really impressed by the level of the competition and the talent of the writers. Iíve done a lot of scientific writing, but this was new and different, so it seemed like it would be fun. Of course, when youíre up at 11pm trying to figure out what on earth to say about "Luggage," maybe it seems less like fun! But overall, Iíve really enjoyed it.
FWM: You are also an award-winning health care researcher. Tell us a little about what that research entails and your accomplishments in that field.
KATHLEEN: Iíve worked in health care for about 20 years. I started out in health care policy, working about 8 years for a state Medicaid agency, and then moved into pharmaceutical research. My work mostly involves what we researchers call methodology, which means knowing how to conduct studies so that you get accurate and fair answers.
Over the years, Iíve been blessed with a lot of opportunities to study all kinds of things, ranging from clinical issues like treatment with different medications, to policy issues like whether charging higher copayments for drugs causes people to stop taking their medication.
Iím also a peer reviewer for a number of journals, which means that I read draft articles to assess their scientific merit, and help advise the researchers and the journals on how to improve them. In both 2003 and 2004, my coauthors and I won the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacyís "Award for Excellence" for studies that weíve published in their journal. That was fun for a lot of reasons, one of which was that we got to dress up and go to a formal awards banquet where the food was fabulous!
FWM: Congratulations on your awards! Though your research must keep you very busy, there is another aspect of health care that you make time for. I was interested to discover that each month you visit about 200 bed-bound nursing home patients and minister to them through music. Tell us more!
KATHLEEN: This started about 8 years ago. I go into each patientís room with a miniature synthesizer and take requests. In an hour I might see 20 or 30 patients, sometimes with their families. I sing anything from hymns to show tunes to folk songs Ė anything, really. Well, almost anything. One patient asked to hear "Hot Stuff" by Donna Summer. I politely declined that one.
FWM: You must have so many tales to tell. Is it true you are putting together a collection of stories about your experiences with the patients to whom you've ministered?
KATHLEEN: Yes, thatís true, but Iím still thinking about what I should do with it or how much to pursue it. People who work in nursing homes will almost always tell you that they get far more out of it than they give, and thatís absolutely true for me. I have met so many amazing people and learned so much from them, like "Henry" in my story. Sometimes I think that I would like to give readers a chance to learn from those people too.
FWM: Besides that of "Henry" and "Mavis," in "There's No Such Thing as a Bad Day," is there any other particular experience that stands out?
KATHLEEN: Wow, thatís really hard Ö. But I think that there is one. Even though it happened about 5 years ago, it still brings tears to my eyes to think about it.
I had a patient who was kind of a "class clown" type. Whenever I saw him, he would be singing a silly song, or trying to take the baseball cap off his head and put it on mine, getting me to dance with him, that kind of thing. I really enjoyed being around him! But one day, when he wasnít around and I was just chatting with his wife, she happened to mention that he was a World War II vet. I asked where her husband had served, and she told me Omaha Beach. Of course, that was one of the bloodiest beaches in the Normandy Invasion. I was stunned. To think of what this "class clown" had been through in the service of his country, and to realize that I had the privilege of helping him in even a small way, was very awe-inspiring for me.
Our oldest son was about 8 or 9 years old at the time and despite his young age, was already a history buff who certainly knew what it meant to have served at Omaha Beach. On our way home, he told me, "Mom, they did so much for us, and now theyíre so old, and so sick. Iím glad that you do what you do, Mom."
That made me cry. It still does.
FWM: As a wife and mother of three rambunctious boys, how do you find time for writing?
KATHLEEN: That question reminds me of the old Jane Curtin skit on Saturday Night Live where she describes all the things she does and then says "How do I do it? I take speed." Well, I donít take speed, although sometimes it feels like I never sleep!
Seriously, so that I could do my nursing home ministry work and what I consider the most important job of being wife and mother, my research work is all done part time out of my house. Iím very blessed to be able to do that. Sometimes I write late at night after the boys go to sleep, or sometimes in unusual places Ė at martial arts class, at a baseball game, sitting in the parking lot at the grocery storeÖ. I think a key for me is to spend a lot of time each day in prayer. That may sound counterintuitive, but I find that it helps to let God tell me what is important for that day. Then everything else seems to work out.
FWM: Thanks so much, Kathleen, for allowing us to get to know you a little better. It's been a pleasure chatting with you. I look forward to reading about your ministry experiences and wish you God's best in your research and writing career.
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