30. Take the time to care about others

As I sat in the hospital emergency department, supporting my friend Patty and her husband who had fallen, broken a rib and punctured a lung, I remembered a couple of truths:

  • Sometimes just being there for someone who is going through a traumatic time is enough. It is not necessary to “do” or say the right things. It is just important that you are there. Maybe as a distraction from all that is frightening.
  • I cope with stress through humour/humor. That was difficult when I was not meant to make the patient laugh. I realized that my one-liners run off the end of my tongue before I can close my lips! It is instinct for me, after all these years of “performance mode”. The only way I could stop myself was to take out my Sony tablet and edit something I was working on or playing games.
I watched a man come into the emergency and he was obviously sore. He was also alone. Time went by and it was evident that he needed x-rays and they took him away for some. When he came back I could see the signs of a “social” being who was alone, for whatever reason. 

I just asked if there was anything I could get for him. That opened up the floodgates. What a charming man! He told me about his life, the love of his life (his wife) and how he had fallen that morning and had come in to make sure he had not done any damage. 

I listened intently. Actively listened. Encouraging him to expand on certain parts of his story. He had asked his wife to marry him just a week after meeting her! I learned about how he started off life selling shell earrings almost door to door. How he later had been in the RAF and learned about contracts and how he later went into business. The whole story was fascinating and, in truth, distracted me from the situation I was in.

The strange part came later. I met him again when I went outside to get a break and he was leaving the emergency. He walked over and started chatting again. Then he asked me “… are you a psychologist?” I laughed and told him no but I was fascinated as to why he had asked me that question. “You just are so good at asking questions and truly listening to the answer. One doesn’t often meet people who appear to genuinely care about what you are saying”. I thanked him for the compliment and told him that it is my hobby to listen to people and, if possible, to help them by getting them to talk more about whatever it is that is troubling them.

I am so glad I took the time to ask him just one question to, hopefully, lessen the stress he was in. I am also glad that I did drop my body language into a listening mode and did listen intently. I am also glad that the man got a chance to talk out some of his “stuff” and find some distraction as he waited for the results of the x-rays.

It turned out that he was fine and I was a happier person for having taken the time to let him tell me his fascinating love story.

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Lesson learned: It is wonderful what one (caring) question can do for a person.

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