When I was growing up in the pre-Vatican II Church, we had a neighbor that scoffed at our family’s strong ties to the local parish and our strict adherence to Church rules — in our case, the letter of the law. This neighbor declared that she could easily find God while sitting under a tree. She did not understand why we were always going to church. We, on the other hand, knew God wanted us in church; praying under a tree instead of going to church was not an option. Needless to say, attitudes have changed, but the question remains. God is found around the altar and within the assembly at Mass. God is also found in the solitude of a morning or evening walk, or for parents in the faces of their sleeping children. Where we find God often depends on the circumstances of our life, our mood and our emotional state. As these change, so does our awareness of the presence of God. God’s presence in a hospital is certainly obvious by the prayers of petition and prayers of thanksgiving offered daily by patients and their families. To actually recognize the presence of God in the staff was somewhat different — a presence unexpected and abundantly welcomed, a presence that offered comfort and hope.In fact, God is with us always and everywhere (yes, even under the neighbor’s tree). However, if we are honest, many of us would admit that on some days God is (or seems to be) elusive, quite distant. In recent weeks I have come to realize God in the nurses and nursing assistants that cared for my 91-year-old father as he recuperated from knee replacement surgery. He fared remarkably well except for a few incidents, and after a week in the acute care hospital was moved to the rehabilitation hospital. Spending time at each of these facilities offered much to think about. I came to appreciate that it was the nurses and nursing assistants who spent the most time with patients. They move equipment and patients in what appears to be effortless rhythm. They read vital signs and listen to the stories of both the patient and the family at the bedside. And they do it day after day after day, giving each patient and his/her family personal and undivided attention. My initial distrust with hospital proceedings moved to gratitude for the care they offered.Thinking about the nursing staff, I realized that to be effective in their work they must cultivate an attitude of living in the moment. As they move from room to room and patient to patient, it seems they must put aside their judgments, wants and agendas to interact with each patient at the level required to help them back to health. While some smiled more than others or chatted a bit more freely, each of the health professionals exhibited great patience and a sense of reverence for my father; from watching them in the halls with other patients, I assume they did the same with them.God’s presence in a hospital is certainly obvious by the prayers of petition and prayers of thanksgiving offered daily by patients and their families. To actually recognize the presence of God in the staff was somewhat different — a presence unexpected and abundantly welcomed, a presence that offered comfort and hope. I am pretty certain that none of the medical staff see themselves as God, yet their demeanor reflected God’s goodness and patience.Returning to the hospital setting any time soon is not in my plans. But paying more attention to the people around me as a sign of God’s presence definitely is.Anne Hansen is a member of the Camarillo Catholic community. Her e-mail address is [email protected]