(Note: The following article is taken from a message that Care Dimensions President and CEO Patricia Ahern sent to all employees on June 2, 2020, in light of the protests following the death of George Floyd while in custody of the Minneapolis police.)
The events of this week in our country are overwhelming. There are few times in my life when I have been nearly without words but somehow I try to dig deep to find some nuggets that give me hope for healing. This is one of those times, so please forgive me if I am not as elegant or expansive as I should be.
My friend, an African American nurse in his early 60s, reminds me that racism is not new, it’s just well documented now. Another friend, a doctor in her 50s whose family fled Castro’s Cuba, reminds me that this politician is not the first to manhandle anger and panic and fear. Sadly, these reminders don’t make me feel better, only worse.
We're all the same on the inside
Over the years I have learned that while we may look different on our outsides, we are all very much the same on our insides. And I am not just talking about our bodies – it’s true for our ideals and our desires. We all cuddle and nurse our babies the same. We all want better lives for them. We are all mesmerized by a beautiful sunset. We all worry when our ageing parents resist common sense about driving as they grow fragile. We are all curious about what’s possible for the future. We want our families to have what they need – enough of whatever is necessary for a good life. We all try to grow stronger in our broken places. And we can all feel the hair standing on end when something awful is near. That’s what we’re feeling right now.
I knew a woman once – the founder of our hospice in Chicago. It was one of the first hospices in the country. Here’s part of the eulogy I wrote for her after her protracted illness. Her name was Betty:
We live our lives in the everyday moments. It’s about our families, tending to our livelihood, seeking various satisfactions, planning for our future. Most of us will die in comfort knowing that we generally did a pretty good job navigating through the good and bad of our everyday moments.
Few of us recognize it when a moment of personal truth is at hand. And, it’s a rare person who chooses to respond to that moment of truth by changing the world.
Like a butterfly’s wings impacting the weather…these people know that lasting change comes one small step at a time. They realize that a moment of personal truth, experienced reality or anticipated distress causes a responsibility. That responsibility becomes the opportunity and the challenge of their lives. That responsibility defines them as people who change the world and we are never the same, once we’ve touched them.
These rare people are able to recognize moments of truth as evidence of what it means to be authentic and realistic and responsible about life. They find a way to turn their experience into something that improves the condition of others. We all have these opportunities, but very few of us act upon them beyond our personal circle of family, friends and colleagues.
When your moment of truth comes, can you change the world? Create a new condition and new order amidst the chaos of life? If you think that you can’t do something – think again. Betty was a young widow with three small children and she changed the world.
Can one dream become the future? Betty’s answer would be absolutely, yes. She would look you straight in the eye and ask, “What are you waiting for?”
My message to you, born of my experience of learning from Betty and leading hospicce: Don’t wait too long to change the world. You never know how long you’ve got.
Change starts with us
So that’s my long-winded message for us. This can be our moment of truth. It must be our moment of truth. We can be the protestors that disrupt the awful and ugly parts of our society. Change starts with me. And you. So I ask you: what will you do that’s different as a result of this time? And I ask you: take an 8.5-minute break today to take your own virtual knee to honor that poor soul George Floyd and his family. We will also share of moment of peace, for peace, at our upcoming virtual Town Hall meeting for employees.
And, finally, please let's take good care of each other. We deserve us. We have something special to protect and it is YOU. Blessings to you and your families.
You can take action by giving your time or support to local organizations that help underserved communities. You also can visit https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/ for a comprehensive list of petitions and resources.
About the author
Patricia Ahern, RN, MBA, FACHE, is President and CEO of Care Dimensions.