Honey versus Vinegar
Small moments of kindness peek through our everyday lives, from your neighbors’ “Good morning!” to a surprise “I’ll take care of that for you” at the office. This week, we want you to explore what that kindness means to you, and share it with others.
In Australia, and in most other countries as far as I can tell, nurses and paramedics are grossly underpaid, ridiculously overworked and vastly undervalued. We expect them to be there when we need them, often abuse them if they’re not – or if we’re feeling particularly stressed – and forget them when we return to our normal lives.
They see us at our worst, and still manage to give of their best.
They are a special breed.
Could you do what they do, in the spirit in which they do it? I couldn’t.
Inevitably, there’s the odd exception: the paramedic with overwhelming personal woes, the nurse with a headache, the one whose workload has finally got to him/her, or – like the first labour-ward Sister I encountered – the one whose mouth says she sucked a lemon years ago and never got over it. But the vast majority are patient, caring, tolerant and cheerful beyond average human expectation. And if it’s all a facade and they scuttle off to the nurse’s station to gripe and complain, who can blame them? It’s not a facade many of us could maintain for single shift, let alone a lifetime of them, and they deserve better than we give them.
Neither is it valid to say that they’re paid to be kind. Nonsense! They’re paid (poorly) to minister to our physical needs at the time. Kindness is a bonus we often don’t deserve.
So on the honey side of this equation, nurses and paramedics are top of my list.
And yet it’s often the random acts of kindness that get the most attention. Perhaps it’s the unexpectedness of them.
On a recent trip to Sydney, I came across a prang – two cars in an unloving metal embrace in the middle of the highway. Strangers in passing cars had stopped at their own risk, to redirect traffic and minister to the victims until official help arrived. I wasn’t needed, so I drove on, but I was still thinking about it hours later.
I’m not sure why I was so moved. Perhaps it was the reminder, in the middle of nowhere, that people are innately good. What saddens me is that I needed reminding: that small, petty acts of selfish unkindness, and larger unkindnesses born of fear, intolerance, greed, and sheer political expedience, are thrust so rudely and constantly into our faces that we start to think that’s all there is.
But it isn’t. It really isn’t.