We must relearn how to practice basic kindness

The dictates of human kindness are fickle.

The eruption of papers fluttered to the linoleum floor of the bustling hospital corridor.  Important persons with grey pressed coats and stethoscopes bouncing against clavicles rushed by without rotating necks downwards to notice.  Loosely fitting scrubs clung to contracting muscles, and pudgy abdomens directed bodies hurriedly around the corner with a misplaced sense of purpose.

And the poor woman bent down helplessly, and struggled to collate the papers that had once fit nicely into her carrying case.  Was she a hospital administrator? A researcher?  A family member, back from the library, trying to study up on her loved one’s illness?

No one took the time to find out.

A transporter pushing a gurney sped by and trampled an errant artifact that had flown away from the safety of the herd.  The women wiped the sweat off her face, and blotted a tear with a crumpled hankie.

I was no less guilty.  A few steps past, my mind swirling with one patient conundrum or another, I stopped mid-stride.  I turned around and silently knelt toward the ground.  I gathered what was left on the floor and feebly handed it to the struggling woman.  She looked up with injected conjunctiva and smiled anemically before I raised from the floor and moved on.

Am I any better?  I have given myself a pass.  I have used the nobility of a profession to deny the basic humility of grass roots kindness.  How many times have I refused a donation to some odd cause or another by thinking, “Haven’t I given enough?”

Yet there is a strange lightness of heart that comes from the unrequired act of selflessness.

We health care professionals must remember that it doesn’t take years of education or fancy gear to help our fellow man.

We must relearn how to practice basic kindness.

Jordan Grumet is an internal medicine physician who blogs at In My Humble Opinion.

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  • http://twitter.com/FerkhamPasha Ferkham pasha

    Patients come first

  • seger@vnsny.org

    Basic kindness starts young with please and thank you. It should stay with you for a lifetime and never change no matter what your profession. People need peolpe to be human, every act of kindness counts.
    seger@vnsny.org

  • SBornfeld

    “Who’s this ‘we’, Kemosabe?”

  • http://twitter.com/fundsandchange Molly C Stevenson

    No kidding! Our family has been giving a kindness scholarship to stand-out kids in our school district for many years. We did this in response to some heavy -duty bullying of our oldest child, who is now 27. I am seeing as a parent of a much younger child and as a teacher in our school district, a root problem of adults modeling less than kind behavior. How can we expect students to be kind if the adults around them are unkind? Very disheartening…..

  • Rob Burnside

    A well-told tale, Jordan! And certainly food for thought. Here are mine: kindness takes time, something we seem to have so little of these days, especially in warp-speed clinical settings. Maybe the first step is going a little slower, noticing those in need, and actually listening to the still, small voice.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rottenruss Russ Moore

    Let us step back ten years. Filling out a second team for a Heart Cath Lab illuminated the new paradigm . . .”I don’t work Friday evenings”, quotes the new members. The response from “on High”? Make the older, more experienced crew cover Fridays and weekend shit-shifts. They have mortgages. They are not studying for useless Masters Degrees. New folks don’t “do” 18 hour shifts. Our Practice is beginning to show the loss of truly qualified staff. Too many Degrees holding clipboards!