When we see a large scale disaster, like Hurricane Katrina or the tsunami in Japan, we tend to forget that the event itself is not just one tragedy, but hundreds or thousands of individual tragedies. In Storyteller Doc’s post this week, he describes a lecture he gave to emergency medicine residents on compassion, where he called upon the young doctors to recognize the suffering of every individual who enters the hospital:
I recently gave an hour lecture to our residency physicians regarding kindness and compassion. I started it with a tragic video of 9/11, scenes playing out to Sarah McLachlan’s “Arms Of An Angel.” We then watched a synopsis of the Columbine tragedy before I started talking. There was nary a dry eye. “See this devastation, this grief, involved in such atrocious acts?” I asked the residents. “What makes this grief and loss any different from that which you will encounter in a patient’s treatment room or our ER family room?” A dropping pin could be heard in the room. Grief is grief, I reiterated. Loss is loss. Death is death. Respect is necessary. Kindness and compassion are a must. Addressing such concerns, I assured the residents, is one of the most important jobs they will ever face. Put the time in and learn how to view this responsibility as a privilege and not a burden.
Now there’s an “individual mandate” everyone can agree on.