Monday, January 12, 2015

How to Make the World a Better Place - Unrelated to Building Science, Energy Conservation or Crafting

I have been obsessed with the events in Paris recently, trying to figure out how the response to this terrorist event can be handled without escalating the violence. I don't know that it can - at least not by typical means. We do not have brave leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King to eloquently explain a nonviolent approach to terrorism. I can't even imagine a creative approach to "fighting" terrorism nonviolently.

Ultimately all we can do as individuals is lead the kindest, most loving life we can manage. It's not easy. I have an incredibly challenging job in the health care field. I find myself angry and frustrated about my work situation every day. I ask myself daily (hourly, sometimes every few minutes) "How in the hell am I going to continue to do this job?" The truth is that I'm not really going to do it for many more years - 2 at the most. But in the meantime I have to struggle to demonstrate kindness and love at every opportunity. I have to take a deep breath and then ask myself what is the loving response to the situation. How can I make the people I work with and the people I serve feel better, feel respected and cared for? When I fail at this, I usually know it right away. You can see it in people's faces when you've snapped at them or cut them off or misheard them or not really listened to what they are saying. I feel bad when that happens. And I try to learn from it.

My mother was an unbelievable woman. She had 4 children including my "surprise" sister when my mom was around age 40. She'd had some undiagnosed health problem before my sister was born, but very soon after she was born, my mom was finally diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. She rapidly developed severe arthritis and was in pain for the rest of her life - but you wouldn't have known. The only time she made a sound about hurting was when she was sleeping. When she rolled over in her sleep, she would moan and cry out, but you never heard it during the daytime. When she went to see her rheumatologist, he would tell medical residents in training that a special patient was coming on that day and they needed to pay attention and see what was different about this patient. My mom always greeted her doctor with a smile, asked about his family, how was he doing etc. She never complained. She didn't arrive at her doctor's office with a list of complaints like his other patients did. At that time there weren't great medications for rheumatoid arthritis so to my mom it didn't make any sense to complain. Every where she went she made people's lives better. She made them happier, she made them think better of themselves.

One time my mom told me about someone she had to deal with on a regular basis who was very nasty and unpleasant (I can't remember why my mom had to deal with him regularly). My mom made a decision to "out-nice" him. She was determined to have better interactions with him so she made a special effort to ask him about the family, to make him feel special. Before long their interactions were positive and pleasant. My mom did indeed "out-nice" him. She succeeded in making him a nicer person at least for her and I bet it carried over into some of his other relationships.

I think this is the response we have to have in our daily interactions. I'm not a politician, not a powerful person in the global scheme of things. I don't have to make decisions about how to fight terrorism. All I can do is affect the people I am around. While I have not adopted the strategy of "out-nicing" someone, I do work hard to demonstrate respect and kindness. So that is my renewed commitment after these recent terrorist assaults.