The Art of Accompaniment
Written by Lindsay Doucette
What is meant by the term of accompaniment? In musical terms, accompaniment refers to the harmonic support that complements the central melody of a composition. The accompaniment weaves in and out in the background, adding richness and symmetry, while allowing the melody to shine forth. In human terms, accompaniment can take a similar form. Where there is love, there is accompaniment. We, too, can weave in and out of the story of someone’s life, richly sharing in their joys and sorrows and acting with love to help them shine as brightly as possible. This is the central work of mission.
This is also the central work of many women around the world, often mothers who bear and nurture multiple children. They spend their lives accompanying and caring for their families, leaving little space for their own needs, perhaps until a moment of urgency arises. This is true for many of the Bolivian women we are meeting this week during our Gynecologic Surgery Mission Trip.
On our first day, Sunday morning, the hallways of the Tiquipaya Hospital were filled with mothers, sisters and daughters with urgent needs who had summoned the courage to ask for help and accompaniment. They waited for hours, along with their spouses and children, in the hopes of receiving life-changing surgeries they would not otherwise be able to afford. Solidarity Bridge mission surgeons Dr. Janet Tomezsko and Dr. Carrie Giordano worked alongside their Bolivian partners, Dr. Jose Luis Choque and Dr. Sandro Zambrana, listening to each woman’s story.
Halfway through the day’s consults, a woman wearing a full skirt in the style of the indigenous communities of the region, entered Janet’s consult room surrounded by three of her sons. The sons explained that no one knew their mother, Daniela, had been suffering for years from pelvic organ injuries sustained after giving birth to fourteen children.
With Quechua interpretation help from the Puente de Solidaridad social worker, Dr. Tomezsko, an expert in pelvic repair surgeries, explained the planned operation to Daniela and her family. After many years of seeing their mother put their own needs before her own, her husband and children were there to accompany her, saying “We want whatever is best for her. Whatever you think needs to be done, we just want her to be well.” Together, they decided to proceed with the surgery.
On Monday, while Daniela underwent the two-hour surgery, her family waited anxiously to hear the results. The operation was successful, and, Dr. Tomezsko soon went out with the social worker and interpreter to share the good news.
As missioners, we, too, are called to practice the “art of accompaniment.” In recent years, Pope Francis has returned again and again to the theme of accompaniment, saying, “We need a church capable of walking at people's side, of doing more than simply listening to them; a church that accompanies them on their journey.” As we work in solidarity on mission, we strive to practice the art of accompaniment. Building a culture of encounter, making sure every voice is included, we contribute our lives and our energies to what Pope Francis calls “a revolution of tenderness.” A revolution so needed in our world today.
Lindsay Doucette is the Senior Director of Programs at Solidarity Bridge, she joins the mission team on this trip as chaplain.
The Solidarity Bridge Gynecologic Surgery Program aims to help low-income Bolivian women receive needed interventions such as hysterectomies, endometrial ablation, and bladder repair. Through these surgeries, women who may live with discomfort or debility to the degree that it limits their daily activities can enjoy restored quality of life and productive capacities. This, in turn, maintains the welfare of their families and the larger community. The program works in partnership with Bolivian gynecologists, training them in novel techniques and outfitting them with the latest instruments and equipment donated by our corporate and individual supporters.