|My grandmother and my father|
I don’t much like giving advice, unless it is asked for. And when it is asked for, I can do a better job if given a chance to sort out my thoughts on the subject. Today, I am posting unasked-for advice, only because I think it may help someone. I don’t consider myself an expert in any way, but I have experience in two areas: 1) I have been a healthcare provider, and as such have worked in hospitals, nursing homes, and medical offices; 2) I have been a family member when my loved ones have been ill. My father battled cancer a few years ago. My mother has had her hospital episodes. My stepfather is in the midst of chemotherapy, and now my heretofore robust and healthy older brother is in a battle for his life. Two of my children were hospitalized as neonates for Respiratory Syncitial Virus, and one of them also for hyperbilirubinemia. (I also have been a patient, enduring 5 days in hospital for a particularly challenging case of Clostridium difficile colitis, an occupational hazard of nursing home work.)
I have encountered many patients, family members and healthcare workers. I have found it helpful always to keep in mind that patients and their families are rarely at their best in the midst of a medical crisis. At the worst, their world is crashing around them, perhaps changing their lives forever, and at the very least, they are experiencing a disruption in their daily rhythm, adapting and absorbing a cost of resources, time, etc, and challenging their coping strategies.
I had a grandmother, whose first name was Irene, who taught by example that loving people brings out the best in them. And for her, “loving” people was not an emotion you experienced passively. Loving people involved active intent, being consistently kind, jovial and accepting. I never saw her react to someone’s negative behavior. Ever. She never seemed to nurse a grudge, even a score, or retaliate a slight. (And there were plenty of slights, believe me.) She blessed everyone around her with her cheerful disposition, and strength of character. She was unconventional in many ways, and as such, not universally admired; for many people it took a long time to understand and accept what she was all about, but I think that, sooner or later, most who knew her “got it”.
A long time ago, I concluded that one of the most worthwhile character strengths to develop was to be someone who brought out the best in others. A little like Melanie Hamilton Wilkes in GWTW, Lately however, I have taken to calling it "Being Irene". For the most part, the old-fashioned idea of “etiquette” seeks to accomplish just this. I needn’t lament here the shocking examples we can see on TV of the impact of abandoning such behaviors. There has been such an emphasis on “being yourself”, “do your own thing”, “do what’s right for you”, in the last few decades that I fear we as a society lose something if we don’t consider one another more.
We could all use a little more "Being Irene".