Something happened to me last week that got me thinking about the power we have over each other. I won’t go into the details of the event because it would serve no purpose but to stir the pot. What I will say about it is that the cruelty from one person to another manifests itself in more ways than words.
Years ago, I was working at Rancocas Hospital (now Lourdes of Burlington), pretty much loving my job, when I was layed off due to another, neighboring, sister hospital closing down and those nurses, having senority over me, taking my job. At the time, Andy was in college and I really needed to work, so I went over to Mt. Holly.
The operating room is a fairly straight forward kind of environment. Its a concrete place, no gray areas. Things are either sterile or unsterile, safe or unsafe, alive or dead. I had twenty years of OR experience when I got there, but that made no difference, to the nurses or the doctors. To this day, I hear the same complaint about the place; respect for experience is unknown there. Being treated in a dismissive way, not having the recognition of the team I was placed with, was one of the most painful professional experiences I have had.
When you walk into a room, or an office, or a store, being recognized, being greeted, is possibly one of the most telling things about the place. (Hence the greeters at Walmarts, friends.) I love my orthopod, but his office staff is the most snarly, unfriendly group of people I have run into in a long time. The first time I went there, I stood in front of a young woman for a full two minutes before she acknowleged my presence. And then it was with a snear, ‘What’s your name?” I would rather drive twenty extra miles to his satellite office that have to confront that group on a regular basis.
One of the doctors I worked with for years, a lovely neurosurgeon, said that the opposite of love isn’t hate, its apathy. How true! If you are forced to spend anytime with someone who doesn’t speak to you, who dismisses the very essence of your humanity by ignoring you, soon that relationship will be unbearable. You can only treat people in that manner until it will turn around and bite you in the ass, as a good friend of mine has said.
When I say, or do something hurtful to someone else, it is usually because I have lost control of my senses for a moment, or have reached a limit of tolerance and explode. I have to confront it immediately and apologize, there is no getting around it, because I can’t live with myself if I dont’ deal with it right away. My friend Beth said she will dwell on it for twenty years if not; I laughed because in my case, it would be forty years! I am that much older than her to remember things I did that where cruel. In most cases, I was able to do some kind of restitution. In cases where that wasn’t possible, I hope I can make up for it in the afterlife!
Its the regular and continuous treatment of another in that dismissive, apathetic way that is cruel.
Seeing people I care about being exploited, or taken advantage of, makes me angry. If I am close enough to them, I can hopefully shed some light on their situation. But most of the time, they have to learn ‘the hard way’. People generally want to believe the best of others. We are willing to suck it up, look the other way, forgive and forget, let by gones be by gones, give a second chance. As it should be. But what it really does to me is make me doubly commited to never, ever treat anyone that way, no matter what. To let my word be my word, to be kind to another.
I had a cassette tape of religious praise music (the ‘cassette’ should tell you how old it is) that I loved, playing it over and over again. One of my favorite tunes was “First Thought'”. The words went something like this, ‘Let your first thought be love. Someone is hurting, hurting inside, and that is why they are cruel. You can give them love, because you are loved.’ That is true to an extent. Usually the meaner they are, the more resistant they are to accepting anything from you. The sad thing is, the more they resist, the more they are losing. It is a loop that plays around and around.
So today, my goal is to be kind. I will start with my husband, who has been the most wonderful caretaker this past month, and who is now out in this heat, mucking out the stalls where MY sheep stay. It is an act of love. Then, I will be kind to the man who is coming to inspect our septic system, which we have already been told needs some expensive work. I vow not to start crying when he tells us the extent of the work needed!
I will try to remember the power of a smile, or showing interest in the people I meet.