Friday, February 22, 2013

Who says worship's only for church?

[Recording located at end of post]
Imagine a place where kindness is the norm. Where people smile, hold doors and let those with crutches and in wheelchairs go first. Where employees ask what they may do to be helpful and mean it. Where all walks of life meet, mostly in unsettling circumstances. Where Zen-like instrumentals waft through uncluttered, futuristic passageways, a daily schedule of art and music is posted, large-scale paintings, sculpture and photography adorn the stunning architecture of the campus. Where Parisian sweets and simple sushi are available. Where ego seems to take a backseat to need.

In a hospital of all places. My visit this week with my parents to the Cleveland Clinic astounded me. Especially when compared to my mother's last-summer stint in a local hospital that was doomed from the moment we entered the ER room as someone was vomiting all over the corridor and no one wanted to clean it up. As a matter of fact, no employee, save a few nurses, wanted to do much of anything for anyone, let alone the patient, the last person on their totem pole of pecking order.

That experience reveals everything wrong with healthcare, but the Cleveland Clinic is a bright example of how business can get it right. Very right.

Just the idea that an experience typically anxious and angst-ridden could be calmed by a quiet, interwoven attitude of care, nurturing, listening and serving on all levels was so invigorating and heartening. Prior to our visit, anyone who'd ever been to the Cleveland Clinic raved about it. I tended not to truly believe it. After all, a hospital is a hospital; at least from my perspective.

We weren't made to wait more than five minutes for any scheduled procedure (of course, we showed up at 7 a.m., so being first was a bonus) or even for the top heart specialist, who spent a good chunk of time talking to and listening to my parents, treating them as relevant. I was sickened last summer at the condescending attitude toward older people at the local hospital. The consulting physician told me several times that he didn't think my parents understood what he said and that my mother kept asking him the same question. I know it's because he never answered her. Ohhh, that still burns me. He also relayed many other things founded on ego and not truth.

The reverence of kindness at the clinic lingered in the hallways long after patients and staff had passed. I don't think I've ever been anywhere so large and institutional when the population was so congenial. More surprising given the nature of why people were there.

There is a culture of kindness at the Cleveland clinic that, for me, began when I approached desk A-17 a eight-til-seven in the morning as Stephanie was disinfecting her seat and warming up her computer. I told her I'd give her time to catch her breath as I knew we had arrived early. She worked to finish more quickly and began the admission before her official starting time.

Perhaps, the smiling, though chilly young man opening our car doors as we arrived on a steely cold morning should have been a clue. All we had to do was toss him the keys and walk in, which was good for my mother, who does not tolerate dropping temperatures.

I am certain, there are blights on the Cleveland Clinic's sterling reputation, but it is such a breath of fresh air and such a contradiction to most health-care settings I have witnessed.

It gives me hope. Hope that this is a better model for how health care can be done; not dictated by egos and insurance companies. Hope that people can make the best out of difficult circumstances when given an example. Hope that kindness can rule, even become the norm.

Of course, I don't want to become sick, but I'd sure like to visit the Cleveland Clinic again -- just to check that what I experienced was real. It'a so much easier to go back out into the cold world warmed by the experience and bring it to the people and places I will touch.

• When was the last time I was touched by human compassion?
• What difference have I observed a thread of kindness making?
• Especially within an institutional setting?
• How does a common experience, especially a difficult one, trigger compassion in us?
• Where have I witnessed Spirit at work in a typically secular venue?

whipping in on
an icy swirl
from the lake

unsure and

going as
the dutiful

my vulnerability
in places of disease

then being
totally surprised
as Spirit's 

form shone
in accommodating
faces, friendly
gestures and
genuine caring

who says
worship's only
for church?


Listen to this post:

No comments:

Post a Comment