As I wrote about yesterday (while complaining about being hungry), today is the Jewish fast day of Tisha B’Av. It is a day commemorating the destruction of the two Jewish temples and it is a day that has a history of being a day full of sadness and tragedies for the Jewish people.
I am fasting and even so, I worked today.
And can I complain about the hellish day I had as we were short 4 nurses?
For those who are new to the blog, I work in outpatient oncology. It is very different than the ER I spent 15 years working in. In oncology you get to know the patients and they get to know you.
I have come to understand and I strongly believe that the way to change the world is one act and one person at a time.
This is especially true when people come from different religions, countries, races, mindsets or even different socioeconomic classes. When we first meet someone, we have a tendency to try to “fit and organize” them into a category. For example, when we meet someone from a certain religion, we draw upon our knowledge of that religion and our opinions of the people we have met in the past from that same religion. That knowledge is used to help us form an impression and guide us in how to interact with the person.
We tend to judge people by the “group” they belong to, especially when we don’t get to know them.
Over the years, I have seen firsthand, how a simple gesture can make a big difference.
It runs both ways though. If you are kind to someone, they will remember that and next time they meet someone “like you”, someone with similar characteristics, they will “judge” the new person in a different, kinder light. On the other hand, if you are mean or cruel to someone, the same thing will happen in reverse.
Basically, your actions have more far reaching effects than you realize.
My patients are not just Jews. I treat Muslims, Christians and people of other faiths as well. If there is ever a place that is ideal to make a connection and to try to change peoples’ perceptions of each other, it is in an oncology ward.
I can’t speak for other nurses, only for myself. What I know is that I try to treat all my patients with the respect and kindness that they deserve. (Or I try to as I am indeed human.) I know that for every patient and family member who reciprocates with kindness and respect, my “judgment database” widens. The chance that I won’t automatically stereotype someone in a particular way in the future increases.
One of the lessons we learn from this fast day of Tisha B’Av is the fact that the second Temple was destroyed because of baseless or groundless hate. The problem that was the cause of the destruction of the temple, of hatred without cause, is a problem that we are still seeing and one that is growing with alarming frequency.
Today against the backdrop of the fast day, today against the backdrop of the out of hand riots and violence going on in London I felt that I was living in a world that has too much baseless hate but much kindness as well.
Today in the midst of all of that, I had a moment that gave me hope.
I am Jewish and orthodox. One of my patients is an Arab Muslim woman whom I have taken care of since her first day of treatment. She comes with her sister or brother and although their Hebrew is very limited, we make do with sign language and some English.
Our lives are worlds apart and what has connected us is cancer. Cancer has given both of us an opportunity to look beyond the differences of our races. It is not Jewish and Arab, it is two people. While for many, the difference between Arabs and Jews is reason enough to hate, small acts of kindness are bridging that gap one person at a time.
This same patient is very talented and does needlework as well as beading. Today with a big hug and a thank you, the patient’s sister gave me a beaded necklace that her sister had made. (The whole concept of taking gifts from patients is a post unto its own. What I will say is that people of middle east orientation get really insulted if you reject their gifts. They take it very personally even if you explain that it is not needed or not proper, so the policy by us is just to say thank you as long as it is not money or anything too lavish and often the gifts get handed on by us to others.)
The fact that I know that I am making a little difference in this person’s life, enough that they wanted to express their thanks, made me once again realize that the way back to sanity from the violence and the groundless hate abundant in this world, is through one little act of kindness at a time.
If we can just remember to get to know each other one at a time, we might just achieve world peace one day.
And if you will now excuse me, the fast is over and I really need to eat.
What do you think the key to world tolerance and peace is?
People Watching Sunset
© Egor Pasko | Flickr Creative Commons