Sunday, Feb 09, 2003
Posted on Sun, Feb. 09, 2003
THE VOLUNTEER CHAPLAIN
The Koran, the Bible and the Torah are among the coffee-table books at Nosrat Scott's house.
And it's not just for looks. With her wide smile and easy laugh, the volunteer chaplain with the Memorial Healthcare System takes that type of unity very seriously.
She teaches religion and spirituality classes for Broward Outreach, helps plan the annual Race Unity Day and is past president of the Interfaith Council of Greater Hollywood.
Her passion for equality and peace led Dan Rather to profile her and other citizens in his 2001 book, The American Dream: Stories from the Heart of Our Nation.
''So many of us are one nationality by birth, and Americans by choice,'' the book's introduction reads. ``And Nosrat Scott, who fled religious persecution in her native Iran, knows well and firsthand how important is freedom, especially the protection of individual faith from the power of the state.''
''The United States,'' she is quoted as saying, ``is going to be the first true spiritual leader of the world.''
But whether the United States is justified in going to war against Iraq is a harder question.
''We really don't have all the information. Higher-ups talk to each other about things that we don't know. They send letters that we don't know,'' she said last week. ``That's why in my religion, we say we don't know; therefore, we don't judge.
``We can only hope and pray that they take the best action.''
Barbara Bambrick, chaplain for Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, has known Scott for five years and says Scott ``believes in unity and peace in the world. It's not the kind of thing that usually gets the headlines in the paper.''
''Her energy is unbelievable,'' said Bobby Popler, the diversity specialist for the Broward County School District, who has been a friend of Scott since 1996.
On the coffee table of Scott's home in Pembroke Pines, each volume has that comforting, worn look of regular use. Notes line the pages.
Since she began volunteering her time as a chaplain five years ago, she has created a sheet of Muslim prayers and has requested some from the Hindus and Sikhs to add to the plastic tray filled with blessings from many religions.
She calls it her ``spiritual candy box.''
It offers the kind of comfort chocolate never will. But the recipients often need some reassurance, in the beginning.
'As soon as you use the word `chaplain,' they think they're in bad condition,'' Scott says with a laugh. ``So we take that worry away as fast as we can.''
Scott aims to ease any awkwardness a patient might feel with compassion.
'I can see from their face if they're in pain. So I ask. And when they answer `yes,' that's brings them one step closer to me.''
Some of her earliest memories are of her parents, first thing in the morning, discussing who among their neighbors was sick or otherwise needed help. ''We must go visit,'' they would say.
Scott, 65, lived in Iran until she was in her 30s. She has a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Tehran. She's a Bahai, a faith that proclaims equality between rich and poor, men and women, and among all races.
''I cannot stop thinking about this: What is wrong with these teachings?'' Scott asks rhetorically. It's a question close to her heart because Bahai are persecuted in Iran. Even admitting you're a Bahai could cost you your life. But Bahai who try to become teachers are in more danger, Scott says, because of their position of influence over children.
Despite these risks, Scott taught and became principal of a school in Iran until she decided to move to the United States 1969 and pursue advanced college degrees. After earning her master's in economics, she moved to California. At a Bahai meeting there, she met Jim Scott, who hails from Birmingham, Ala.
Five weeks later, they were married. It has been 19 years since then, and Scott says it's only because of Jim that she could make volunteering her career.
After taking two years off from work to care for her mother, she contemplated returning to work.
'Jim says, `We've learned to live on one paycheck, so why don't you live your dream life?' '' Scott recalls. Her husband works for the Pembroke Pines Police Department. She has been volunteering ever since.
Recent events, especially the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, have changed aspects of her work as a chaplain, Scott says.
''Some asked for more prayers. Some were afraid of anyone asking about religion at all,'' she said. Some asked why religion should matter, if people did terrible things in its name. ''I say it is not really God or religion doing that. It is us. We are the ones'' misusing faith.
And the questions about her heritage and personal beliefs come more often.
'After they ask the first time, I say, `It doesn't matter what I am. It only matters what you are.' And if they ask again, I tell them.'' Most are accepting, but some are not. And that ''doesn't bother me a bit,'' she says.
She knows it's not personal.
``It kills me, it kills my spirit, to think we all believe in God and are fighting each other.''
©Copyright 2003, Miami Herald (FL, USA)
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