Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Good Stick

I know, it's been awhile, but I wanted to return with something maybe a bit of a personal nature.

I just got back from the doctor's office. Nothing major, just a routine sort of blood test. Routine enough that I tend to not think about them too much. I mention it, because something not terrible happened. The phlebotomist stuck me, got my blood drawn in record time, and without much in the way of pain. For those of us who get stuck on a regular basis, that is an appreciable thing. (Diabetics, you know what I'm talking about)

I thanked the gal, on a good stick, and she was kind of surprised. Which got me to thinking.

For those who don't know, I had an aortic dissection some years back. My aorta blew like a bad seal, and that damn near killed me. Technically, it did, four times, but the Cardiac team at Bay State Medical is absolutely one of the best on the East Coast, and after 26 and a half hours of surgery, they got me sealed back up and on the road to recovery. Took a few months of healing, and I was back to work, and got on with my life.

When I was ambulatory, my girl and I went back to the ICU ward, and sent flowers to the cardiac team. Which, we discovered, was a surprise for them, which at the time, I thought was odd. These folks saved my life. For four hours, while the surgeon got a small break after doing 16 hours of surgery on me, they literally poured blood into me, which promptly leaked out, and they set themselves back up, and went back and did it again. For four hours. And for another 6 and half after that, they got me patched up some more.  The pair who poured blood into me, the nurses in the ICU, and the surgeon and his team all got thank you cards, because, they saved my life. And my Grandma raised me to say "thank you" to folks when they deserve it.

To be fair, that near death experience has shaped me. I try not to take things too much for granted. It's way too easy to lose everything, and at random. The Universe is a fickle Mistress, and she WILL excise us from her at the blink of eye, and while there might be some regret at the loss, she's not going to look back if a gamma wash tears through our neck of the woods and scrubs life from this spiral arm.  Nor will she be particularly perturbed if a rock falls from a ledge, a dam bursts, or a tiny clot forms in a blood vessel and bursts your aorta and tears away half the valve attached. Things will end, and whether or not you believe in an afterlife, there are things that I prefer not to face that question without having said. Thanks yous are at the top of that list.

It is sad that it often takes us something so severe to learn that particular lesson. To say the little things that matter. To appreciate when folks are doing well. We are all too inclined to grouse and complain, but noticing when folks do well, that is something that we often mean to do, but it is easy to pass off for later.

So, I say thank you. To waitresses who do a good job. To bartenders who treat me right. I've written notes to managers to tell them when their staff has done a bang up job, because noting the positive is something we tend to forget. Not noting excellence in a field. Not when folks go above and beyond, but when they do their job, and do it well enough, that we are made at ease, with a quiet competence.  When it goes smooth enough, that we tend to not even notice the job was done, because it was that smooth.

There has been a lot said about when folks fail to do their jobs. We have a lot of folks decrying the state of education in this country. We have folks up in arms about failed regulation. We have folks who are fired up when unions fail their rank and file. When civil servants fail at their duties. When the media doesn't do their jobs, and lets questions go asked, let alone unanswered. And that is important. It is necessary even.  While we have a duty to illuminate when things go wrong, it's important to note, when things go right. Not spectacularly well. Not when things are done that are mind blowing, but when folks extend us their excellence and courtesy as commonplace. Be they a teacher. Be they a nurse. Be they a phlebotomist. Be they a waitress. Be they a bartender. Be they a clerk. Be they a cop.

We exist in a culture that tends to bustle, and we weep and wail at the lack of civility and the breakdown of values and courtesy. This is a natural grouse. It is how we socialize and operate as a society. We identify examples of deviance, and we point them out. The problem is, we seem to be grousing a lot, as opposed to  pointing out the deviance in the other direction. Society has carrots and sticks built in, and "please" and "thank you" are two of the most common of the former. And they need to be used more often. We want a more civil society, we need to use them more often. To reinforce those behaviors. Not just with our own children, not just with our friends, but with strangers and those who we may only see once in a lifetime. We need to illustrate that quiet excellence, that doesn't ask for recognition even. That's a step we need to take ourselves. Be that thanking that teacher who takes the time and effort with our kids. The bagger who packs our groceries with care and competence. To say thank you when it's deserved.

Maybe if we did that more often, we'd have less of the folks who we likewise need to scream at. Reward those who do well, and those around them are affected. Call it karma, call it paying it forward, call it loving kindness, call it good manners.

I'm ripping off the bandage from my stick, and it was a good one. It was good enough that it reminded me to be better to folks who do hard work, without expectation of thanks. We do this more often, all of us, to be mindful of that, we might not need to scream at the bad ones quite as often. Least that's how I'm going to interpret it tonight.

I know that I've been gone for a bit, but I hope that you've all been well, and I trust that you've been excellent to one another.

Crossposted to The Motley Moose

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