Let me tell you about a recent experience that may illustrate a different take on the maxim, “If you see something, say something.”
I was at my eye doctor’s office, waiting for my monthly injection. I noticed another elderly patient—we’ll call her Janice—who was politely asking the receptionist about her next appointment. As time went on, it became apparent that Janice seemed to have some cognitive problems that made it difficult for both her and the receptionist. As the doctor’s visit continued, Janice walked out of the office before her nurse had completed the exam; staff members went outside to retrieve her. After her appointment, Janice spent an even longer period of time in a confused post-visit conversation with the receptionist.
Throughout the entire experience, it was clear to me that the office workers knew well Janice’s medical needs and diminished capabilities. Each staff member treated her with calm, reassuring respect. They repeated their answers and directions so that Janice was finally able to comprehend what she needed to accomplish next. Their patience was on full display—especially true of the receptionist, who was also aware of the growing line of other elderly patients waiting to check in. Eventually Janice left and the office returned to its normal procedures and work flow.
Something had happened, I had seen it, and now it felt to me that something needed to be said. Having observed this entire encounter, I looked for a way to talk with the doctor and nurse who treated Janice, and also found a few moments with the office manager and the receptionist. Speaking briefly to each one, I detailed the specifics of their kindness and professionalism that had just taken place. I thanked each staff member for their acts of gentle compassion for Janice. I wanted them all to know that what could have been a distressing experience for her has been averted by their thoughtful empathy. My compliments extended to the way in which this medical practice obviously treated patients’ well-being as their primary concern.
It occurs to me that one of the possible costs of today’s hyper-awareness might be that we’ve encouraged each other to look only for what might be dangerous. Motivated to become citizen vigilantes, we may target our senses toward anything that seems out of the ordinary—read “possibly threatening”—so that we can report our observations to the proper protective authorities. I wonder whether “saying something” about “seeing something” may have resulted in a narrowing of our powers of observation. It seems possible that we could be missing the somethings that are admirable and encouraging!
Those of us who are older adults probably experience similar incidents—selfless deeds of helpfulness that might go unnoticed in the whirl of daily life. What might happen if we saw something (good) and said something (good)? Given all the good that takes place every day around us, we could offer to those around us the gift of observant gratitude. We could add needed perspective about the state of our society. By our saying something, we could reward those who carry out their daily work or relationships with care and consideration.
We could be Gospel!
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