I had the honor and blessing to attend an event that celebrated 25 years of a health center that is almost completely funded by donations. Most of the patients that receive care, around 90%, are refugees from other countries who are not just looking for a better life, but had to leave their homes and cultures just to survive.
What was so amazing to me was as I listened to some of the stories told is that everyone had an overwhelming sense of gratitude. The gratitude was not just for healthcare that was priced on a sliding scale based on their ability to pay, but much more about how they were treated. They all felt treated as human beings rather than just objects that needed care. This gratitude led to their desire to give back. As many of these refugees went on to become successful, they all give back in some way. Those that can donate on a regular basis do, others volunteer as translators, and some just spread the word of need for support as best they can.
As I sat there, I began to wonder why these people felt differently than many others who receive care in our healthcare system. They were not getting better care per se, they still had to pay proportionately to their ability, and so what was the difference? It dawned on me it was how they were treated. They were treated with true dignity and respect with great reverence to their personal difficulties.
All of those we touch every day in the work we do have their own personal difficulties. We are not just diagnosing and treating issues; we are in relationship with those that need us in their time of great vulnerability. If we are cognizant and act in such a way that focuses on the fact that they are looking to us not just for treatment, but also for understanding and compassion, we will be more impactful. No, we may not always get it right or cure their illness, but we will be in the right relationship with our fellow human beings, which is really the core of what we do. When we are in such a communal state with those we serve, an amazing thing happens. We not only give of our gifts of healing, we receive a gift of gratitude and love in return.
When everyday life gets harder, when the healthcare environment continues to change around us leading to greater frustrations, these gifts of both giving and receiving is what we need to feed ourselves to overcome the everyday difficulties. I have lessons to learn every day, lessons that come in many shapes and forms. I must remain open to seeing these moments and invite the learnings into my everyday life.