If you’ve been reading my blog than you know that my dad had open heart surgery yesterday. He was totally asleep when we saw him post-op yesterday. We heard via phone call to the nurse last night that he woke up very confused and combative. For the nurses taking care of him, I was very sad that the impression they initially got from my dad was one of a confused old man who could really throw a punch. I hope not. I would think that confusion and aggression like this was often seen by the nurses in anesthetized patients post-op. My dad is really a gentle, funny, and very sociable man. His post-surgical crazy behavior was only temporary and I hoped it would not give a false first impression of what kind of patient my dad was going to be.
Several years ago I worked as a nurse in our local hospital. Every morning I would get report from the night nurse about the patients I would take over for the day. It always made me angry when the report on the physical state of the patient included comments on how “demanding the patient was” or how I should “watch out for that patient’s family, they are really nasty” or how the patient in room 405 “was always bugging me for his pain medication.” I didn’t want this other nurse’s negative impression to taint my relationship with my new patient. For the targeted bad patient, I would make a point of going into their room with a smile and would take the time to listen to their needs. I usually ended up doing just fine with the so-called trouble-maker patient. If they were in pain, all they simply wanted was their regularly scheduled dose of pain medication. That didn’t seem like a huge request. And most families just wanted a listening, sympathetic ear from me. I promised them that I would be around to help as best I could and I usually had no problems for the rest of the day with my needy patient or their family.
Yesterday when I was waiting around with my Mom and Pop for Pop to get registered before surgery, we casually chatted with another patient sitting close-by. A woman, one of the registration clerks, walked past us and the patient I was chatting with said to me, “Oh boy, there goes miss personality.” Well, the woman was scowling and looked like she was all business. I was determined to get through her hard façade! Wouldn’t you know it; we got called to her little cubicle. She quickly and efficiently asked my folks questions and pounded the answers into her keyboard. There was a question for me (that I can’t even remember) but what I do remember is that she asked me and I started to answer then paused. This forced her to take a break from her all-business keyboard hammering and look at me. Once eye contact was made I smiled really big and gave an answer to her query. Guess what? She smiled back! It was like she melted a little and that tough façade broke down just a bit so I could see a sliver of a happy registrar.
My point is simply this. We often don’t know what is going on in another person’s life. Is physical pain making them short tempered and cranky? Are they simply not feeling well; perhaps tired or sick? Maybe they are short-handed at work and have twice the number of patients to register. There may be a sadness or challenge they are facing that they are trying to cover up with a hard and mean façade. But to fight the angry negativity with more of the same will only make things worse. A little compassion, a warm smile, or an ounce of patient understanding is like a salve to someone else’s pain. We’ve all had our turns at a bad day. We don’t mean to act nasty or short-tempered. If we are fed more negative responses and behavior it only makes things worse. Remember the days when someone gave you a smile or a kind word that was like psychological triple-antibiotic lotion on your bad mood?
I’m just saying.
John 7:24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.