Small Things

(c) –

There is an old English Proverb…

“out of small acorns grow mighty oaks.”

There is a New Testament Proverb (James 3:5) about small things:

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!

Wise people from all ages have observed how big things can/do spring from small things. Don’t discount small things.

Sometimes small things are precious as small things. If you know anything about me you know I appreciate trees. And that I have set a blaze here and there with an errant (or intentional) word, but every day I find a reminder that small things are important. Even those that do not become mighty oaks or blazes.

I recently spent several days in Clarion Hospital. Likely small things that became orders of magnitude bigger, but in the aftermath of this experience, it is small things I have been thinking of for the most part. The big things will go where they are going to go but the small things made a huge impact on me for these several days.

When we interact with the health care system, we (and those who trolley us around) are often not on our best behavior. I have written before about this. I spoke to a nurse during my recent stay. I was not sleeping and she had to come in briefly in the wee hours and she had time to talk. She said nurses realize when they are dealing with us, that it is usually among the worst times of our lives. We are not feeling our best and the best does not percolate to the top. Knowing that does not make it easy. She said they adapt.

It was not that long ago that people in this line of work were applauded. Heroes. They were on the front lines of horror. Dealing with people not on best behavior. I tried to cultivate the habit of explicitly thanking people for coming to work that day. The day that my orbit intersected their orbit. This was health professionals. It was also WalMart employees. Anyone who added something to my world that I needed but could not add by myself.

Doctors and nurses and office staff/administrators are the front line in our interactions with the medical profession. I make sure to tell them I appreciate what they do. I don’t worship them and I don’t take everything I’m given without question. Question for better understanding, not questioning education, intelligence, or skill level. I respect them. They are the professionals. I’m a dilettante (dabbler) at best. I like to know a little about a lot of different things. I’m not on equal footing with doctors and nurses. (I let my wife deal with the administrators. I’m not temperamentally suited for that.) But there are others who should be appreciated. Invisible people. I wrote about them in an article some years ago. It bears repeating.

In a hospital system, there are people who check you in; Triage to determine what is needed; Operate machines and take blood; Read results that MUST wear on them as humans; Shave bits unaccustomed to being shaven; Clean bits we prefer to clean ourselves; Look at things we would prefer not be publicly on display, etc., etc., etc. I know there is SO much I don’t know about cogs and wheels that keep the machine in motion and a lot of these people are not ‘customer facing’, meaning that I never even see them. I only see the results of their work. It is difficult to show appreciation for some. That is no excuse for being (or seeming to be) unappreciative. These people were all heroes not so long ago. They are the same people. If there has been a change, it is us who still need them but no longer fully appreciate them. There are still more people who need to know they are appreciated.

People come every day almost invisibly to clean floors and toilets; Empty garbage; Deliver (and fill) meal trays. I sense that they may feel invisible because they go about business business-like. Silent. I try, when I am at my best, to convey my appreciation that they came to work that day. They intersected my orbit for a necessary bit that could easily go unappreciated because they are not the more visible staff. They count. They matter. They mattered to me and I told them so as often as I was conscious and able.

I want everyone I come in contact with in the medical profession (EVERYONE) to know that I am glad they came to work on that day to help me. I want to behave in such a way that they also are glad they came to work on that day. I have not always been so conscious or inclined. I was younger once. More stupid (I hope) than I am these days.

I spent the better part of four days on the second floor at Clarion Hospital East Wing. I was recovering from the procedure on the first day. I had many people looking after me. People who had to take deep-veined blood; Look at things healing; Repair leaking IVs; Reconnect burst size-2-Velcro-compression-bandage-struggling-to-contain-size-12-body-sections; Endure skivvied 68-year-old hospital-gown-backside shuffling corridors hourly all hours of every day… surely thankful that the unskivvied first-day wardrobe became skivvied thanks to help from my wife.

I truly appreciate the help and professionalism of every part of my experience. There were periods of severe discomfort. None were because of the people who helped me; Who went out of their way to help me (and tolerate my silliness all the while). The procedure I had done was non-trivial. There is more to the journey. The things done for me, every one of them, were huge. To me. I know that every person considered them “just part of the job”. Small things. The lesson for me is to make sure I appreciate all things. And to express that appreciation.

To that HUGE group of people who helped me, my wife and I want to say THANK YOU for coming to work the days I was in your care! You autographed your work with EXCELLENCE! We appreciate all of you!