Care Capsule

Does It Really Show?
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I’d choose Nurse # 2 any day over Nurse #1 when my life is on the line. But even clinically excellent Nurse # 2, if she is a Christian, is called to add something to her modus operandi. She needs to make a personal
connection to her patients. Otherwise, she is a mere technician, and robotic perfection is not good enough for
followers of Jesus when caring for God’s beloved creatures.

Everybody wants their Pharmacist to be extremely accurate, but almost every prescription filled is a secret drama in everyday life. What a remarkable thing if that prescription is not only filled perfectly but also handed over with a look, a word, a hint of compassion and concern. One of the most remarkable care and kindness anecdotes in my book, The Miracle of Kindness (page 198), is that of Glen Gorman, the proprietor of an auto body shop. Glen instructs his employees to “listen” to the customers. Naturally, there is a distress story wrapped around every smashed car and the owner arrives with an emotional event on his heart as well as a broken car.

At some level, Glen Gorman’s customers must know there is“something different about these people”. If they inquire, the goodness of Jesus may emerge.

Stop a minute right now, please. Think of the work you do, the activities you are engaged in during the course of the week. Now mentally visualize yourself acting more personally toward those about whom you are thinking. Imagine, in a planned way, connecting more genuinely, offering a compliment, saying an encouraging word, and, of course, smiling—or doing any other intentional acts above and beyond your normal routine behavior. Instead of the legendary “random acts of kindness”, perform well-planned, pre-targeted, intentional acts of care and kindness.

A best-selling book entitled Blink, claims we can make a fairly reliable and trustworthy assessment of people in our first impressions or after just a short few minutes of interaction. I already live by that discovery. I typically ask my Administrative Assistant for her impressions of those who apply for the Clinical Pastoral Education course I lead. She spends a couple of minutes with each, whereas I conduct an hour-long interview. Invariably her assessments fit mine very closely.

Years ago I worked in the Pastoral Services division of a large hospital, where training ministers was a major part of my job. I always postponed writing up my assessment of those pastors until I checked with the cafeteria help, secretaries, nursing aides and others. Often, they saw behavior in the course of interacting with them that revealed basic character traits and attitudes I’d missed in the more controlled settings. Feedback from the frontlines almost always told the truth about how these leaders treated people in the course of everyday life. Sad to say, some of the most sophisticated, credentialed, prestigious, and eloquent flunked with the janitors and food servers—where it really counts!

There are not many duties that cannot be improved by taking a little time to pay attention to the individual in a way that displays care and kindness for them as human beings. Surgery, lawn service, police work (arresting someone), general accounting, collecting accounts receivable, auto repair and every other imaginable transaction with people; all these are susceptible to higher sensitivity to the other persons involved.

Eye contact and a smile seem to be mandated techniques for every super market cashier. I know as the recipient of these gestures that they are required behaviors and not often from the heart. But it doesn’t matter! The forced smile and quick look still makes a positive difference. I feel crummy when the pretended courtesy is neglected.

There is something about the grocery store practice that we followers of Jesus might adopt—routine, forced rules for meeting people that include a smile and eye contact, to begin with. Then whatever else — attentiveness, commenting about clothing, jewelry, or maybe a tattoo, inquiring about another’s life in some way, a helping hand; that is, making a show of friendliness. Endeavor daily to behave in such a way that might produce the reaction my children had: ”Those people were really nice.” “There is something special about that lady.”

Since we sing the hymn, “They will Know we are Christians by our Love", intentional, planned friendliness must be our daily agenda. It may feel awkward, unnatural, forced and artificial, but that doesn’t matter. No matter how it feels to us, the recipient will be blessed. I remember structuring training sessions with role-playing exercises in which the participants were totally pretending to be sharing a heartache or sore spot in their history. The other person was acting like a caring listener. A hundred people were in the audience observing. In the reflection time after the activity, the listened-to persons inevitably said they felt so cared for. And this was a 100% made-up drama and was not a real situation!

I took some golf lessons a while back and the pro insisted I hold the club in a strange way. It felt and looked wrong, but I agreed. She is the expert. Gradually I got used to it a little, but the improvement in my game was convincing enough to overlook my discomfort with how it looked and how it felt.

Planned, intentional care and kindness may feel the same way. But I encourage you to stick with it because you know it is right and it will improve your game, help others, and make the world a better place.

It comes down to doing what is needed—not being guided by our feelings. We have in our possession actions that will help others. We are capable producers of words, mannerisms, gestures, help, that will brighten the lives of others and meet needs in their lives. We must not be ruled by our old habits and ordinary comfort level. We must be guided by the needs of others and our capacity to fill them at least a little. Our Coach says “You are the light of the world.” “Shine, do not hide.”

We must decide to live this way. Not hope, wish, wait or dream. It must be done. Then pray daily and take inventory at least once a day to strengthen your determination and focus your activities where they are needed and where we can deliver.

It is not often possible to measure the results of the care and kindness we deliver. Sometimes we get a bonus and hear or see heart-warming results, but mostly we trust God, obey The Lord, believe that the good we do is in fact making a difference in individuals and in the world.

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