A Hearing without Truth

Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters. – Albert Einstein

I was able to watch part of the Kavanaugh hearing today. It was all I could do not to cry for our country. We have lost the ability to have a civil discussion partially because those we elected to represent us care more about themselves than the truth and the victims of sexual assault.

Sexual assault is not about sex. Let me repeat this. Sexual assault is not about sex. It is about violence, power, and control of the other person. Today, the 21 people who hold this nomination in their hands were exhibiting verbal violence, abusive power, and control over the other person. The only thing missing was the attempt at sex to disguise it.

I believed Dr. Ford and at times felt sorry for Judge Kavanaugh though I did not believe him. No rational person would believe his statement about his drinking and his yearbook even if one believed the rest of what he said. The Senate could take some lessons from nursing. Even if you think a patient is a horrible human being, a murder, a rapist, or name your evil, treat the person with respect and dignity. Provide compassionate care and the best possible treatment. If you cannot treat the other person with respect and compassion then request to be replaced in the provision of their care. It is a simple rule. Do the best you can do it all the time. Treat all patients as you would want your mother or father treated.

The next thing we teach is that to provide the best care we must work together as a team. High functioning teams build on the strengths of each team member and show respect to all. If we start yelling at each other or treating each other with disrespect then the patient will be the one that suffers the most.  More importantly, when we are focused on ourselves we forget the patient.

I was embarrassed for our country. This does not represent the best in our country. How hard is it to focus on finding the truth and for each American to care more about the truth than political affiliation? The only person that seemed to handle themselves with dignity was Dr. Ford. Everyone else needs to be sent back to kindergarten to learn how to behave. The truth matters and if we cease to care about the truth we are lost.

Man tends by nature toward the truth. He is obliged to honor and bear witness to it: “It is in accordance with their dignity that all men, because they are persons . . . are both impelled by their nature and bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth once they come to know it and direct their whole lives in accordance with the demands of truth. CCC 2467


When Feminism Meets Southern Lady

It has been a month since I returned home to Tennessee and I quickly remembered what it means to be a Tennessean and why I loved being a Volunteer. People say good morning and actually, mean it. I still remember the psychology professor from New York that told us how it freaked her out when she first came here. In Tennessee, people make eye contact just because it is considered polite to make eye contact when you say hello and to acknowledge even a stranger when you pass them. And, it isn’t uncommon to have a 10-minute conversation in the grocery store with a total stranger. Men still hold the door and will hold it while you climb the steps as if they have all the time in the world. Plumbers, electricians, and all the workers that have been so helpful with the old home I bought quickly treat me with greater caution when I give them the “my daddy taught me…” when it comes to home repairs. The look on their faces say, she may have lost part of the accent, but she didn’t forget how to fix things.

I love being a powerful woman, but I also love wielding the Southern lady.

I learned how much the South has changed. There was a time when a new woman in a university or corporate gym may have been considered a spouse. Yesterday, an older gentleman in the gym assumed I was in a leadership position. I’m sure part of it was the dress I was wearing that clearly gave me away, but still, I remember a time when people would see me in uniform and ask me if I was a stewardess instead of recognizing me as an officer.

I was dressed for success, but a Southern man didn’t assume whose wife I might be and that is progress.

It is nice to see that the Southern ladies have made great progress in the advocacy of women’s rights and equality. After all, a true Southern lady does not stay long in the company of those that cannot respect her. I am grateful to all the female academics, graduate students, and professional women that have worked so hard for equality. I have seen these women every day and they are doing the things that impressed me as a student so many years ago. They take their mission seriously and they take it to the streets. Almost everyone I happen to have met at the university has told me about their work with the homeless, or in an underserved clinic, or with children who were born into poverty, or their mission trips to serve the poor and spread the Word. Yes, it means something to be a Volunteer and that calling to step up lives here.

This leads me to my thought of the day. We can be polite to others and accept the intention of good manners with graciousness. The woman behind the counter that calls me dear is not being disrespectful nor is the plumber that does the same if their intent is to be polite. Communication is not only the words we choose to use, but the tone with which we use them, and the body language when we are talking. Holding a door doesn’t say I am less than a man. In fact, it is meant to show respect even if in doing so it acknowledges a role that is often linked to gender or age.

I’m glad to be home and happy that I am being reminded on a daily basis that there is much to love about the South. It is nice to slow down and remember that I should never be too busy to greet a stranger with kindness and get to know them. I am a feminist, a Christian, and a Southern lady and I love it that in Tennessee I can be all of those things!


Word and Speech

The insatiable commotion of idle talk is all too common in nursing and indeed most workplaces. We should ask ourselves why we do this thing we all hate? In my experience the greater the turmoil in a workplace the greater the idle talk. As the idle talk increases the sense of hopelessness also increases.

While I was working as the Chief of Staff for the Acting Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response most of my days began in the same way. A loud New York voice yelled out of one office and across the lobby to my office with a few expletives attached and a demand to get in there. It was usually the same issue. A young staffer assigned to write a speech, brief, or put together a presentation had not done it at the expected level. Of course, the level expected was that of an experienced writer, policy analyst, or researcher and not a green staffer fresh out of college.

The first few times I was beckoned I responded by giving the requested information on who had done the work. The result would be a devasted young person that had their confidence shaken and the same thing would repeat the next day. I caught on quickly and would reply I would handle it, but no longer would say who did the writing or completed the assigned task. After a few months, even I was frustrated with the all too frequent morning dance around unsatisfactory work. One evening I took the assignment home with all the necessary policies and research. I gave it to my husband who had dual Ph.D.s in philosophy and psychology and ask him to write the requested speech.

Seeking Truth

People need to hear the truth, but to hear it one must be open to listening. When the speech was reviewed it was exactly what he been wanting. My reply was  “if you want work that looks like it is done by a Ph.D. you need to hire a Ph.D.!”  A few months later we had a professional speechwriter.

Most of us believe we want the truth, but the truth isn’t always easy to hear and is frequently even harder to relay. When someone does tell us the truth we should be both grateful and take action. It is through the action that we show our respect for the person that bravely spoke the truth.

Increasing Hope by Keeping Silent

Morning silence and lack of daily criticism built hope and a better climate followed. The fear that had resided in so many young people was gone and as result, they could explore their potential and grow into highly productive professionals and a cohesive team. Most of us don’t make a sudden radical change. shutterstock_711523417We tweak our behaviors and our performance because it is hard to put away our fears. Only when we are able to wrestle those fears can we be truly just in our dealings with others because we forget about self-protection and can focus on the good of those for whom we have responsibility.

It is not necessary to be friends with professional colleagues, but it is important to treat them as one would a friend. We are more likely to accept the flaws of a friend while approaching them with greater compassion and truthfulness. We are more likely to listen openly to friends. And, we are less likely to engage in idle talk about friends. What if we treated all colleagues, students, and patients as we would a friend?

The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing… not healing, not curing… that is a friend who cares. — Henri Nouwen

 


Good Nursing is Prudence

The intellect and not our will must guide our decisions. Yet, it is often our will that gets in the way of sound reasoning. Don’t we all want what we want? Would we not prefer to get our way? I know I would and at times my own will has gotten in the way of hearing what others had to say.

When I joined the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) I wanted to work with the poor and underserved. I had a mental image of what that meant. Simply, it was those in poverty or homeless. It had never occurred to me to consider those in prison or detained by immigration as poor or underserved. Nor did I ever consider the disproportionate impact that disasters have on those that are poor or homeless.

Late in my career, I accepted a job with the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) working for Daniel Schneider, who is now the Executive Director of the American Conservative Union and CPAC. I was fascinated by what he described to me. He wanted an office that would address the human services needs of people impacted by disaster and especially those that were poor or marginalized. He wanted the office and programs to be built on the principles of self-determination, self-sufficiency, federalism, flexibility and speed, and support to states. Of equal importance, he wanted a close working relationship with faith-based organizations. I was free to develop it as I saw fit so long as I understood that I was fully responsible for any success or failure. It was an opportunity to combine my work in disaster management and at the same time return to working with the poor and the underserved. I was all in and then I had my first meeting with faith-based groups that worked in disasters – ouch!

The first meeting was eye-opening. It was clear that people were angry and especially the person from the United Methodist Committee on Relief. There was bad blood and before I would ever be able to make progress fences needed to be mended. Fortunately, I didn’t have to do it alone. Two amazing organizations stepped forward and offered to help. The first was Catholic Charities, USA that filled me in on what had transpired following Hurricane Katrina. While I had worked in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response since 2001 I had no interaction with the human services programs. The second organization was the American Red Cross who suggested I let them host meetings on neutral grounds. I was grateful and realized that I needed to do a lot of listening.

While I listened I also knew that good policy had to be evidence-based or adapted from a policy that has historically been effective. It could not be based on emotion or lack intellectual reasoning. I understood that there had been hurt feelings and a lack of listening in the past, but I would not ignore that there were successful programs that could serve as models. While the population served was different the goals and objectives were the same. We needed to get to mutually agreeable principles and we needed to use evidence-based policy.

The stakeholder meetings revealed that health care was largely excluded from the services offered by Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOADS) and case managers rarely had health care experience. I wanted the case managers to be nurses, but the VOADS and my contracted faith-based organization wanted them to be lay people. We compromised and had a combination of case managers we trained and nurse case managers. When all the research was completed and the program pilot tested it turned out that what was primarily needed was the lay case manager with nurse case managers to be available for people with complicated medical needs and for consultation. Because I first listened and because we were all willing to follow the evidence we ended up with a program that we could all support. You can learn more about the ACF Disaster Case Management program at: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ohsepr/response-recovery/disaster-case-management .

I considered the development of the Disaster Case Management program a great professional accomplishment. I had an amazing team, exceptional partners, and political appointees that trusted us to do our jobs and have the best interest of the country in mind. There was mutual respect. However, the sense of professional accomplishment paled in comparison to the change in my spiritual life.

When I was in Baton Rogue with Catholic Charities, USA I was asked to stay with them at the retreat center. They gave me free access to the grounds and the chapel and said I could use it anytime. I hadn’t been to a church of any kind since my twenties and so I was amused. Then I listened as CCUSA had to remind the Catholic sisters that they couldn’t give away all of the food. I watched as CCUSA personnel and volunteers worked with compassion and patience and with their dedication exemplified what it means to serve. I, on the other hand, could only see a mission to be accomplished and my cadre of young officers as tools to accomplish it. While CCUSA saw the humanity in everyone I wasn’t even seeing it in my own people. By the time I left something had changed. I was no longer listening with my ears, but with my heart. The VOADS and the faith-based organizations had a different perspective than the government. It wasn’t about sitreps, or numbers proving the success, but rather compassionate care provided to people that were suffering.  I woke up one day shortly after our time in Baton Rogue and announced I intended to retire. Not long after the project was completed I was working for a small Catholic university where I found what I sought and though I left the university after three years what I found and what they nurtured has never left me.

Following the evidence resulted in a policy that ensured better services to the poor and underserved impacted by a disaster. Letting the spirit transform the knowledge into an accomplishment for good put the program in hands that are filled with compassion. By being open to what was good and just rather than tactically efficient government and faith-based organizations were able to bring the best of what each has to offer to serve those in need.

I am forever grateful to Dan for the opportunity, to the administration at the time for prioritizing the poor, and to Brent whose faith I am sure crafted the principles on which the program was built and through which I found my faith. The experience showed me what I lacked as a human being, what I no longer wanted to be, and a path to a more compassionate existence.

Prudence is the birth mother of all virtue.

compassion


Nurses Most Ethical

Nurses have been named the most honest and ethical profession for the 16th straight year. A close second was military officers. Are military nurses especially trusted for their honesty and ethical standards? My guess is they are because they exemplify the best of both nursing and service to the country. Near the bottom of the list are members of Congress and at their lowest level since the poll began is clergy.

I think other professions could learn a lot from nursing about what it means to be honest and ethical. For most of us honest and ethical behavior is easy. It is something we teach and build into both education and practice, but mostly it is an expectation of all nurses. If we make a mistake, such as a drug error, we do not punish the mistake, but instead, we make being honest about the mistake an expectation. We then search for the cause of the mistake and we work to correct it. Dishonest is never acceptable. We embrace our humanity and our failings and when we realize a colleague erred we help them to do better in the future and we make every effort to try and help anyone that may have suffered as a result.

Nursing teaches us that everyone will make mistakes, but we are not defined by those mistakes. Our patients will eat too much and harm their health. They will drink too much, or exercise too soon after an injury, or do something dangerous, or any number of things humans do that harm their health or the health of a family member. Which among us doesn’t have a story we tell and laugh about that relates some serious failure in judgment? It isn’t our job to judge, but to help in recovery, educate on how to be healthier or safer, and treat each individual with evidence-based and compassionate care.

What could Congress and clergy learn from us? Start with self-determination. People have a right to determine their own health, faith, and path. When a patient, a parishioner, or a citizen tells you what they want it is our job to respect their choice. If they don’t want a procedure even though it might help them to be healthier we must respect their decision. Congress could learn that the truth is always best even when it isn’t what people want to hear. Don’t spin it. We don’t tell patients that cancer will make them healthier, wealthier, or happier. We don’t give a treatment we know will not make them better, but will likely make them worse and may in fact seriously harm not only them but their family and friends. We don’t refuse to provide care because someone with more money or more power doesn’t want us to do it.

Likewise, if we harm someone we don’t deny it. We make every effort to correct any harm we caused even if it means that we will get sued or have a negative mark on our records. If we are about to do something that will cause discomfort we talk the patient through it and we try to offer as much support as possible. We never take joy in any pain a treatment causes others and we would never tolerate a nurse that intentionally makes a treatment more painful. I’ve never known a nurse that does not consider patient advocacy more important than protecting a peer that made an error. And, we ensure in every state there is a system for anyone to file a complaint or voice a concern and we ensure that it will be taken seriously and the action taken as a result will be public.

My suggestions to Congress and clergy is to follow these easy rules:

  • Self-determination is more important than your personal wishes.
  • Tell the truth. People know when you are lying and unfortunately, once you are dishonest most people lose all faith in you and what you represent.
  • All people deserve equal respect and dignity. In case your don’t remember what his means here are some definitions.
    • Definition of equal. 1 a (1): of the same measure, quantity, amount, or number as another. (2): identical in mathematical value or logical denotation: equivalent. b: like in quality, nature, or status. c: like for each member of a group, class, or society.
    • Definition of dignity 1. the quality or state of being worthy, honored, or esteemed.
  • Admit your mistakes and work to rectify them.
  • Transparent and translucent are not the same thing.

It is not our job to force our ethics on others, but to show them our honesty and ethics through our behavior.

 


Don’t Let Wrath and Anger Define St. Louis

The dignity of the human being is fundamental to a moral society. We often hear that human life is under attack from abortion or the police or violent criminals, but I say human dignity and human life are under attack from wrath and anger. Last night people joined together in a desire to see social change and others joined to support friends and the community. Sadly, the night ended with civil unrest turning to violence and destruction. The morning brought out two kinds of people, those that wanted to help the Delmar Loop recover and those that wanted to throw more stones – not the ones that break windows, but the stones that break hearts, spirits, and incite further wrath and anger. Those that come to help have engaged in the community with courage. Those that throw stones have let their fear and anger control them.

 

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Broken Windows

 

We are created as social beings. How we organize ourselves and how we create and enforce laws directly impacts human life and dignity. It is time for us all (young and old, rich and poor, religious and atheist, majority and minority, liberal and conservative) to consider how the labels we assign to ourselves blind us. We all have a duty to work for the common good and we must recognize that if we fail to protect human rights we are failing in our responsibility as members of a community.

It is not necessary, nor helpful, to stand with the police and against the protestors or with protestors and against the police.  By doing so we are labeling them as one and not many. Just as there are police officers that fail in their duties there are citizens that break the trust of the community. Until we recognize and commit to fixing the breakdown in trust and the failure to be good citizens and good neighbors we can protest every day and not solve any problems. Our elected officials and police can shout from their bully pulpits about being tough on crime and not tolerate violence or property damage and will solve nothing. Indeed all that will occur is further division, further fear, and growing self-righteousness on all sides.

Broken windows are symbolic of our broken society that has lost its moral compass. We see it in the vitriolic posts on Facebook and Twitter that encourage people to hate and fear. There are far too few people willing to engage in a compassionate conversation where one is open to listening and willing to consider other perspectives. We also see it in politicians that forget that they serve the whole community and not just their base. They post things that are clearly intended to incite passions and pit groups against each other. Yet that would not work if we let go of our fears and anger.

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Today, those that love St. Louis came together in peace and love and helped the community to heal. The message of love and support should inspire us all to do better and to be better. We can begin by embracing this message and work together in a productive manner to change the rules on the use of force and address crime within our community that invariably results in confrontations with law enforcement.

It is time to let go of wrath and anger and be a city of peace and love. If you participate in the die in today let your wrath and anger die there. If you are not participating take the time pray for peace and love. Let us commit to compassionate listening today and every day.

Wrath and anger are hateful things,
yet the sinner hugs them tight.
The vengeful will suffer the LORD’s vengeance,
for he remembers their sins in detail.
Forgive your neighbor’s injustice;
then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
Could anyone nourish anger against another
and expect healing from the LORD?
Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself,
can he seek pardon for his own sins?
If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath,
who will forgive his sins?
Remember your last days, set enmity aside;
remember death and decay, and cease from sin!
Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor;
remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults (Sir 27:30-28:7)


Compassion, Civility, and Ending the Violence

I woke up this morning to yet another shooting. So far this year there have been 27,797 incidents with 6,875 deaths and 154 mass shootings (www.gunviolencearchive.org). Today alone there were two mass shootings, one in Alexandria, VA and one in San Francisco, CA. As a country, we are awash with guns and there are too many people lacking both self-control and a moral compass with them. We must either work to have gun laws that prevent those who should not have weapons of violence from easy access to them or we must address the lack of morality and self-control or we could be radical and do both.

“Those that proclaim themselves to be the sole measure of realities and of truth cannot live peacefully in society with their fellow [wo]men and cooperate with them.” –Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

I often wonder when our fall began and the answer always leads me back to the same place – our leaders. We have all manner of leaders and they are failing us. We have professional athletes that cheat and commit violence, actors that engage in all manner of moral failure and make huge money glamorizing immorality, and politicians that engage in discourse that incites the public to incivility. And then there is me. What am I doing to change things or worse support them?

I can’t take away your hate of your neighbor, or a politician, or even your brother. I can only let love take all the space in my own heart leaving no room for hate. I can’t force you not speak in ways that infuriate others or to listeMask by B. Brechtn to the views of those that are “different”. I can only speak with compassion and have ears to hear. I can’t take away your guns, but I can decline the right to bear arms and walk among my neighbors without fear. In the end, the only morality I can control is my one, but I can be an example to others of compassion and civility.

We need to change the way we see ourselves and our expectations of our society. Compassion and civility begin with me and with you. I’m choosing to practice radical compassion.

May all the victims of gun violence, hateful speech, intolerance be embraced with love. May all of those that feel the need to respond with such speech or violence be embraced with even greater love until they are able to let go.

May God grant us compassionate heart and a peaceful society.