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Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Word for the Day
Today’s Word:  Better
Two men are walking in the woods when they come face-to-face with a bear. The bear growls and charges and the two men turn and run.
The first man says to the second, “You know you can’t outrun a bear, don’t you?”
The second man replies, “I don’t have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun you.”
We might snicker at this story. Yet there is truth we might see all over in real life, whether or not we meet a bear. When there is trouble, struggles in the economy or stresses at work, people might think just that way. “If I can just stay ahead of that person, or that department, the trouble will stay away from me (‘I’ll outrun the bear’).”
The world has many places of economic pressure. We hear about such places on the television, but those are far away. Even the United States is encountering troubles, but mostly somewhere else. But there comes a time when our company or our family has to deal with difficulties. Here at Altru Health System where I work and in Health Care in general we live in times when many things, maybe all things, are changing. Reimbursements are in flux, the old way of doing business is questioned and there is pressure on all Health Care Institutions. The bear is no longer chasing someone else.
We all worry. So it is pretty easy to think the best thing is to outrun the next guy to escape the bear. For example, many hospitals don’t have Altru’s commitment to spiritual care and willingly cut chaplain services. After all chaplains don’t bandage wounds or prescribe medications!  Let’s all be slow to point fingers at someone/something which we think might be appetizing to the bear. 
The greatest problem with trying to outrun others is that we don’t think or work on real solutions. Bears are pretty impressive animals. But we humans, when we work together, can make good plans and perhaps even tame the bear altogether. Perhaps these three simple questions will help.
How can you/I be better?  OI know that question sounds like code for “Work harder! Work longer!”  Well, that’s not what I’m thinking. Often we can get better not by doing more, but by doing less in a better way. In fact, if we push our hours and fail to take care of ourselves with time off, eating well and getting sleep – well, our work will suffer. I’ve been thinking I need to set aside a small amount of time to do important tasks (like writing) which can get lost in my hurry. Funny thing, for me, writing helps me do other things better.  What makes you better? 
How can you/I help others be better? What do you think about the two men I started with? Are they still friends, assuming they both got away from the bear? Not likely. It’s a very simple fact of life. When we work with only our own self in mind we don’t make others better, actually don’t do our job well and rarely get our own needs met. But when we work together for the common good, our own good also is improved!
Think of those you work with. How could you help them? How could you improve your workspace? I suppose there’s a multitude of ways, but they mostly start with our attitude. Our outlook on life is contagious, whether it is good and positive, or fearful and negative.
How can you/I help the Organization be better? I am part of several organizations (and you probably are as well). When I was a local pastor I used to repeat the words of another preacher who said, “When you leave the church today, you are a walking advertisement for the church. It’s as if you are walking down the street with a sign which says, ‘Look at me.  This is what the church is like.’” The same might be said of our work. I am always aware that anyone I see might soon be a patient, or the family member of a patient. I try to act accordingly.
What can you do to strengthen any of the groups to which you belong? What do your words say? What attitude do you carry from work? Do you speak about “they” and “them” or use the words “we” and “us”?  And, remember, our thought-through input can make a difference!
            I think in life we have a choice.  We can fearfully try to outrun bears and other people, or we can work together to come up with the next good (maybe even great idea).  I like the second way better. 
Word for the Day: Prepare. I work primarily with Hospice Patients, people who can see the end of their life coming more clearly than the rest of us. So, I have heard the following phrase many times: "We had always planned on … " The phrase gets ended in many different ways. Some folks planned on taking a trip, or going on another honeymoon, or building on to their home, or something as simple as sorting through all the family snapshots. But you can tell by how the phrase begins that this hadn’t happened and maybe there’s just a bit of regret. Plans are funny things. Have you ever looked at the “plans” for a building? The details, at least in some cases, are revealing. You can see the plan for every door, window and outlet. I suspect most so-called “plans” for our lives aren’t anywhere near that detailed. In fact, if we are honest, our plans mostly consist of talking about something(s) we’d like to do, mixed with a generous amount of wishful thinking. That’s why I think the word “preparation” is so important. When we prepare we actually take some action step. If it is a trip, maybe we need a passport or a savings account set aside for travel. If we want to put our pictures in some order maybe we ought to buy some scrapbooks or just call the family together for a surprise “picture party.” The same thing happens at work, doesn’t it? We all want to have the best workplace ever and perhaps even talk about “plans” to make it that way. But those ideas fall to the wayside in the busy-ness of what we do. How about picking one personal action step to make your workplace better? Let me ask you a question. What are your actions leading toward? Is everything you do just looking to retirement and what we anticipate there? That’s a good place for planning. But what about all the days between now and then? Some folks waste a lot of life looking forward only to some time years in the future. So what is the focus of our preparation? Prepare to make the world a better place. Wow, isn’t that abstract? But there’s truth there. What actions can we take to make the world more positive? What words would we say (or refrain from saying)? What would we do around work to make the environment more satisfying for more people? Prepare to grow great relationships. When you make a list of “most important things” in your life your relationships with family, friends, God and others will likely be high on the list. What actions can we take to grow those relationships? We all have discovered that just being in the same place at the same time doesn’t always do the trick. Do we need time set aside for just talking at family gatherings? Do we need to find ways to connect at work? Prepare to be replaced. There is an old truth: “Everyone can be replaced.” But there’s more to it. Everyone will be replaced … someday. There aren’t many better goals than to make the job easier, clearer and more positive for whoever will follow. What can you do about that? I don’t know your plans or “wishful thinkings.” I do know that, in your life (your family, your work, everywhere) it is wise to make preparations for things good and bad. Make out your will and your advance directive. And whatever you would like to do ask this: what’s the first step? And then take it. Have no regrets. Make preparations instead of just plans.