I work under the premise that everyone deserves a certain amount of respect and care, merely for the fact that they are human. From that starting point the scales can tip, depending on a person’s behavior.
More care, more respect can be earned by virtue of good, generous behavior, and in some instances the balance can be tipped the other way, and a person may be deemed worthy of less care, less respect. That is far less common, though – I am hardly Anubis weighing your soul against a feather – but your negative actions do tip the balance.
And failure can to act can sometimes add a stone as well. Apathy and inaction can have consequences just as bad as negative actions.
My scales automatically tip in the direction of deserving more care and respect under other, uncontrollable circumstances. The very young and the very old automatically get a bit more. So do those that are ill. Not sniffles, but seriously ill.
Even if our scales had tipped toward the other end, I am convinced that when faced with the reality of mortality, prior actions and beliefs are considered under a new light. And I hope that, were we given a second chance at life, we would do better.
Or maybe I am being naive.
I lay this out because this week, without leaving my house, I encountered two diametrically different types of people.
The first was from the nursing home where my mother resides. Her roommate is a mid-level Alzheimer’s patient. She appears to be a sweet lady, not quarrelous or violent like some. She is old, and often scared.
One evening, after lights out, a nurse came into their room to assist her to the bathroom.
Thinking my mother was asleep, she was quietly terrorizing the other woman. She told the poor woman she hated her. That the next time she rang, she was going to put a pillow over her and smother her. That she could kill her and no one would even know. That she had no family to turn to (not true).
This was a nurse. Whose job it is to care for these people who are unable to care for themselves.
My mother easily identified the nurse, as she has the distinction of being the only nurse in the facility with blue hair. I told Mom she had to report her behavior to the facility.
At first she resisted, fearing retaliation, but the next morning she told the facility Social Worker, and an investigation has been launched.
Her story chilled me, and made me extract a promise from my mother to always tell me if anyone ever did anything like that again.
And I can’t wrap my brain around why a person would ever behave the way the nurse did. It makes me sad for the world.
On the same day I heard about this, I heard about its opposite. A friend of mine, who works in a top-tier management position at a rapidly growing software company, was on a plane and had a different kind of encounter.
He saw someone being disrespectful to an elderly couple. He called him out to a degree that he got a round of applause from three rows of fellow travelers. His comment was, “You don’t mess with old people.”
He’s an executive. A position assumed to come with callous disregard for fellow human beings. And he had no personal dog in that fight. He had no reason at all to step in, yet he did. He gives me a little hope.
Days that I hear things like this make me a little on edge, a little sad. I wonder how my son will turn out. Both of the people above came into the world in the same place, yet somehow, one was broken and one was made strong.
We do our part to keep our son respectful and kind, but the alchemy of life is a strange brew and we are only the first ingredient.