Archive for the ‘Compassion’ Category

Service of a Kindness from an Unlikely Source: Thoughtful, Responsive NYC Civil Servant

Monday, September 11th, 2017

“12 Angry Men” Photo: gablescinema.com

I was married at City Hall in NYC and I’ve dealt on several occasions with various divisions of the Manhattan Motor Vehicles Bureau [to take a test for a driver’s license, report a lost license plate and renew my driver’s license], so I think I know where robot manufacturers go for their models. Warmth and compassion aren’t words that come to mind regarding the frontline of city employees I’ve dealt with, which is why this story that touched me was worth a shout-out.

Photo: newyorkpersonalinjuryattorneyblog.com

A friend—I’ll call him Curt–was called to jury duty in NYC and for health reasons was unable to serve. When he tried to reach someone on the phone to learn what he had to do to be excused he dialed a bunch of phone numbers and got automated voices, so I offered to try my luck.

I found a number online and a message gave me a second number to call and shock of shocks, a person answered. His name was Jeffrey. He asked me for Curt’s juror index number, which I didn’t have, and gave me a third number to call after lunch that, he said, rang at his desk. Curt called and left a message on voicemail.

I wanted to be sure that Jeffrey had all the information he needed and that he’d cleared Curt from the system so I didn’t have to visit him in jail for being a no-show. I take seriously all government warnings. I called the next morning. Jeffrey confirmed that Curt’s name was deleted—he is also over the mandatory age for jury duty in any case.

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

I asked if Jeffrey needed a note from Curt’s doctor and he said, “No.” I thanked and Jeffrey said with some urgency, “There’s one more thing.” I replied, “Yes?” He said, “I want you to have a nice day. And bless you.”

His thoughtful words–out of context–took me by surprise. Have you been happily astonished by a kindness from an unexpected source?

Photo: shoppersocial.me

Service of Secrets to Success

Monday, June 1st, 2015

Secrets to success

I read an article in which women were asked to share their secrets to success in a particular industry. Here are just a few tips to illustrate the point:

  • “The key to success is to determine exactly what success means to you—set your own goals and accomplish these by working hard, dedicating your time and energy, while maintaining pride and confidence in what you do—even when it may not always go the way you planned.”
  • “Patience and tenacity are essential to attaining any goal in life. It’s also important to put yourself in situations where opportunities will present themselves.”A little bird told me
  • “Find what you are truly passionate about and then pursue it wholeheartedly, because a life’s work that brings you joy will strengthen you throughout a long career.”
  • “It’s no secret that women have to work hard and smart every day if they want to be successful!”
  • “Intuition cannot be overrated.”

Do you agree these quotes apply equally to men and women and to most industries? Do you think this approach is passé?Can you guess the industry?  For the answer keep an eye on the comments. When someone guesses right, I’ll confirm. If nobody does, I’ll disclose it there.

What's your answer

 

Service of Making the Best

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Photo: news.bbc

Photo: news.bbc

Things work out best for those who make the best of the way things work out,” is credited to three-time All-American basketball player and coach John Wooden. I’ve chosen three examples to illustrate this great quote.

Patrick Donohue

Patrick Donohue

I first heard it at The Christopher Awards last week. If there is one person who took this quote to heart it’s Patrick Donohue who said it in accepting the James Keller Award, named after the organization’s founder. His daughter’s baby nurse shook the infant so violently that she destroyed 60 percent of the rear cortex of the child’s brain. That was 10 years ago. Since then Donohue founded a research initiative as well as the International Academy of Hope—iHope—the first school for kids with brain injuries like Sarah Jane’s and other brain-based disorders. It’s in NYC and he plans to expand to other US cities. 

Father Jonathan Morris, Carol Graham, Major General Mark Graham [retired]

Father Jonathan Morris, Carol Graham, Major General Mark Graham [retired]

Carol Graham and Major General Mark Graham [retired] accepted Yochi Dreazan’s award. Dreazan was honored with a Christopher for his book, “Invisible Front.” The Grahams also illustrate the Wooden quote. The book is about how the Army treated the deaths of their sons. Jeff was hailed a hero after being killed while serving in Iraq and Kevin’s death, by suicide, was met with silence. Today the Grahams work to change the Army’s treatment of soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder [PTSD], to erase the stigma that surrounds those with mental illness and to remind active duty, National Guard, Reserve, veterans and family members that seeking help is a sign of strength. This summer General Graham and associates plan to convert two call centers into one which will be supported with private funding: Vetss4Warriors.com @ 855-838-8255 and Vet2Vet Talk @ 855-838-7481. The keys to their crisis prevention telephone program: Trained peers counsel and advise callers, provide referrals and follow up with them. 

Murray Liebowitz

Murray Liebowitz

Murray Liebowitz is the third example in this post. A stranger to us, we attended his memorial concert at The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College last Sunday. A passionate music lover with a special appreciation for Gustav Mahler, Liebowitz paid for the concert–Mahler’s Symphony No. 9–so that it was free to the mourners as well as to the community. He made the arrangements with Bard president Leon Botstein before he died. Tributes in the program described Liebowitz as “modest,” “kind,” “direct,” “generous,” “loyal,” “disarmingly unpretentious,” “delightful,” and “warm.” But he wasn’t always successful. This Bard board member went bankrupt when his first business failed. His New Jersey egg farm thrived until supermarket chains put him out of business. He earned his fortune in his second career as a Florida real estate developer.

Botstein wrote in the program, “Murray Liebowitz was a true gentleman. He was a man who enjoyed enormous success in business but one who never let success in life go to his head. We live in an age where money and wealth appear to be valued above all other achievements. They stand uncontested as the proper measure of excellence. To be rich, it seems, means that one might actually be superior to others. This corrosive calculus is one in which Murray never believed. He was without arrogance.”

Many face personal tragedy, devastating business reversals—and even overwhelming success—and make the best of the way things work out. Can you share additional examples?

making the best of bad situation 1

Service of Good Samaritans

Monday, March 26th, 2012

giving-a-hand

I’ve known Good Samaritans and have written about them at least twice, in Service of Snow and Service of Pets II.

Two Good Samaritans helped out my husband, Homer, last Thursday night.

The weather turned hot and Homer left his winter coat on the 4:38 pm Metro-North Harlem Line train and in its pocket were his car keys. The car was in the parking lot at the railroad station. I had the second set of keys and I was at the office in the city, two hours away.

mta-policeI dialed the MTA police emergency number clearly marked on the train schedule, worrying that our crisis wasn’t bad enough and didn’t qualify as urgent. The policeman 3764–he wouldn’t give me his name–was wonderful, calming and quick. After hearing the story, he took my number and hung up. He called me back immediately saying he’d reached the conductor on the train who’d found the coat and put it in a lockbox at the last station. Our stop is third from last.

Meanwhile we couldn’t reach a neighbor at home or at work to drive Homer to the other station or home.

I asked the MTA policeman to do me a huge favor: To please call Homer directly in the event he had a question. He didn’t hesitate and said he’d gladly do so and even gave Homer a message from me.

doverplainsrrTrains don’t come often to this rural spot. Homer planned to take the next northbound one to retrieve his coat and then wait on that isolated platform for almost two hours for the next southbound train.

Soon a man on a motorcycle drove up to my husband. He was Dale Hossfield, the Metro-North conductor from the train Homer had just exited. Hossfield reassured him that he’d found his coat and told him precisely where he’d stored it at the end of the line.

I settled into a new project at my desk at work, deciding not to leave my desk until the situation was resolved and Homer had a way to get home. The station is in an iffy neighborhood and once a train moves on, it gets lonely. I was surprised to hear from Homer some 20 minutes, not 1.5 hours, later. “I’m inside our car!” he said.

Instead of going home to dinner after a long day at work, Hossfield returned to the lockbox two stations up and cycled back to the station with Homer’s coat and car keys. He wouldn’t accept a cent for all the gas he used driving back and forth [$4.04/gallon for regular]. There was no way to repay him for his time and kindness. Talk about beyond the call of duty.

People are in such a rush and often don’t take time to help others. We’ve learned to ignore someone who might welcome help. We have selective vision, like a waiter in a crowded restaurant who won’t move his eyes from the water he’s pouring to see a customer who is motioning for the check–or for water–and may have been doing so for several minutes.

How can we get the message to the “I’m too important and far too busy” crowd to tell them how much someone might appreciate a hand? Can you share a Good Samaritan story?

rushingtowork1

Service of a Symbol

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

 symbols

Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff, an August 14 guest of Religion on the Line on WABC Radio in NYC, proposed an idea for US military chaplains that had merit and illustrated a spirit of collaboration and ecumenism that would benefit parishioners and congregants worldwide. If members of Congress adopted a similar approach as this retired military chaplain, all of us would profit.

priest-rabbi-ministerRabbi Resnicoff suggested that all military chaplains wear the same symbol to identify them as they did early on when any soldier or seaman, [no airmen then], would know a chaplain because he wore a shepherd’s crook on his uniform.

Today, said Rabbi Resnicoff, military personnel have no clue who the chaplains are. Christian chaplains wear a cross, Jews a Star of David, Moslems a crescent, but not everyone associates the symbols with being a chaplain. The rabbi pointed out that there are ministers of some little known religions with one chaplain in the armed forces who sport a symbol few could identify.

foxhole1He noted that in our military, a chaplain is called on to facilitate the ministry of other faiths making it important for a soldier to be able to identify him/her. If a chaplain jumps into a foxhole, all the soldiers in it become his flock if they want to be.

So in addition to offering counsel and assistance to any soldier, a rabbi might ensure that a Catholic be let off duty to attend mass; a Catholic chaplain would order matzos for the Jewish soldiers in time to eat during Passover, and so forth.

In fact, an Episcopalian chaplain was largely responsible for this Conservative rabbi’s vocation which along with his military service may explain his ecumenical predisposition. This minister wrote the recommendation that got him into rabbinical school, which he said was unusual.

Given the history of religious wars we’ve suffered for centuries that continue to kill thousands yearly, more men and women of the cloth should follow Rabbi Resnicoff’s lead and recognize that their calling should benefit far more than their constituents. Do you agree? Do you think that there should be a universal symbol to identify chaplains in the US Armed Forces? What do you think of symbols in general?

shepherds-crook

Service of MYOB

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

mind-your-own-business

A recent comment by Lucrezia, a loyal participant of this blog, inspired today’s topic, “Service of Mind Your Own Business.”

In a response I noted that I should do a post on the many ways of saying this, using gentler words, especially when speaking to a client, fragile friend, in-law or other person you can’t be blunt with and Lucrezia suggested: “A family friend advised a simple ‘I don’t know’ when put on the spot.”

noseyLucrezia continued, “I feel that can get one into trouble. I don’t have clients, and fragile friends know better than to ask me nosy questions. However, if feeling compassionate, I find an ‘I don’t feel up to discussing that right now,’ or (if I can get away with it) ‘I don’t remember,’ is a great help.” [Rupert Murdock said those words on the stand last week!]

She concluded, “Healthy business relationships usually don’t involve intimate remarks.”

alistair-deaconA rerun of “As Time Goes By,” last weekend reminded me of a BBC character, Alistair Deacon’s, solution. He’d wave his hands in a characteristic way and say “Hey, hey, hey!” which could mean “don’t go there, you’ve hit dangerous territory” or “Wow, cool!” depending on his tone of voice and facial expression.

My Mom would say, “Excuse me, what did you say?” If the person repeated the question she’d respond, “That’s what I thought you said.” I have never been brave enough to use that one.

Before the days of real estate search programs like Zillow, when it was a pain to look up such information, a friend asked me what I got for an apartment I’d just sold. I answered with a smile: “My asking price.” [I’m usually not that quick.]

mountain-climbingWhen I was going through a dicey patch and didn’t want to attend any social functions for fear of touchy questions, a friend suggested I memorize a succinct answer. To this day, her policy is to make the comeback as flaky as possible, such as on your birthday or anniversary, to “Where’s Joe?” [husband or companion] you’d reply, “Joe’s climbing mountains in Brazil.”

Some people feel we should know everything about politicians-any public figure. Under the gun lately are Rahm Emanuel and Chris Christie. They are getting grief for sending their children to private schools when they run a city and a state, respectively, where public education is under scrutiny. I wonder if “this is a personal decision” is sufficient given the relentlessness of the media–social and traditional–opponents and talk radio hosts.

Innocent young children’s questions are a different subject and some of them are a riot. I’d love to do a post with a list of them as it would be charming, so if you have some to share, please send me the best in an email: jeanne@jmbyington.com.

How do you parry unwelcome questions? Are you comfortable asking intrusive ones? Do you think that what one person would consider a personal, inappropriate question another would regard as routine, even thoughtful?

asking-questions

Service of Pet Peeves II

Monday, July 18th, 2011

grrrrrr

I posted 11 pet peeves a year ago May and thought I’d exhausted my list but obviously, I left out a few. It feels so good to write about what annoys! So here are a dozen more.

 **I don’t like to be flimflammed and that’s how I feel when the stock market goes up on a day with dire financial and political news: Moody’s threatened to reduce this country’s credit rating which would cost us all a tremendous amount of money; there were terrorist killings in Mumbai; gridlock caused by childish political posturing continued unabated on Capitol Hill with debt ceiling deadlines looming; Spain, Greece, Ireland and Italy were patching up the tatters of their economic quilts with little result.

I am not satisfied with the reason given for this up tick: That nine of 11 corporations reported fabulous second quarter earnings that day [more about this below]. To ignore what’s going on outside is like envisioning a woman dressed for a ball, perfect hair and gown but the house has just been pushed to a precipice by a tornado. When she opens the door, instead of stepping out to the walk, she falls into an abyss. 

light-bulb1 **Repetition of misinformation to strike out at an adversary works because people would rather not be bothered by facts. President Obama did not sign the bill eliminating inefficient incandescent light bulbs in favor of  the energy efficient kind-President Bush did–and yet conservatives repeatedly use this as the glaring example of how government increasingly encroaches on our private lives. Maybe it does, but if you are going to blame President Obama, pick another example please.

Isn’t the more important story here–and another peeve–that this bill was the perfect excuse for corporations like General Electric to close US plants that made incandescent light bulbs therefore putting hundreds out of work last year when the timing couldn’t be worse? By moving manufacturing to China, they lowered the cost of making the bulbs. And they can charge more for the energy efficient kind. Along with loopholes that allow GE to dodge taxes, it explains why some of the corporations in the peeve above are doing so well, but at what cost to the economy and to us, to everyone but their stockholders and management? 

links **I am fussy about who I link to or befriend so it’s annoying when someone asks me to join their network on LinkedIn or Facebook and they don’t remind me how I know them. They lazily click the option that shoots out an email message like “Maisey Dokes has indicated you are a Friend: I’d like to add you to my professional network.” It would take a second to add something like “We’re both on the sponsorship committee,” or “I met you at the event at Hearst.” If I see someone on the street who has no reason to remember me, I say, “Hello, Frieda, Jeanne Byington. How are you?”  Or I might introduce myself to someone and say, “You work with my friend Nancie Steinberg. She tells me we have a lot in common.” Trying to link or befriend me is no different.

 **It drives me nuts when people don’t use their car’s right or left turn signal. There are certain congested places where it’s essential and it’s very selfish when a driver doesn’t or waits to the very last minute. I can’t enter traffic if I don’t know if their car is going straight ahead. If it’s turning into the store’s parking area that I’m exiting, I could drive out. Being self-centered not only holds me up but all the cars now lined up behind me.

curve-in-road**On the subject of cars, there are idiotic road signs that make me wonder if the person who installed them has a brain. We pass a little town on Route 82 in Dutchess County where we’re asked to drive at 45mph. The “resume speed” sign comes right before a hairpin turn where if you went 55mph, goodness knows where you’d land.

 **I resent it when someone infringes on my time by creating a false deadline so it affects how I triage my time to meet it. How do I know? They ask for information, a report, photos or copy by a certain date but when I submit what’s due, I get a bounce back email telling me that they are out of the office at a conference or on vacation and will get back with me next week.

dont-waste**Waste drives me nuts. I get the feeling that there are stacks of boondoggles we will never hear about. If we could eliminate them, we could leave critical programs intact.  According to ABC News: “A $1.2 million federal highway program that sent employees on a 17-day globe-trotting journey to photograph different billboards was suspended Tuesday — an announcement that came after ABC News alerted the U.S. Department of Transportation that it planned to air a report on the program.” In addition: “The initiative, known as the International Scan Program, has been sending federal and state transportation employees to popular foreign tourist destinations for the past decade with the goal of studying how other countries handle the challenges of running major highway networks.” Each trip cost $300,000.

 **If you work in a medical facility, please always be pleasant. It makes a difference. And pay attention to what you say especially if your job is repetitive. I picked up some x-rays from a radiology place where the desk staff is used to saying, “Sign this and sit down and wait for your name to be called.”

So when the administrator asked me to sign for the x-rays she said, “Sign this and sit down.” I replied, “But I planned to leave now,”  confirming that there wasn’t something else for me to do while there. Not realizing that she’d told me to sit down she got testy and nasty in her dismissal.

 **I agree with a friend who says that it should be a felony to use the word awesome.

muffin-top **Average looking or shapeless people shouldn’t wear super trendy clothes. I cringe looking at them as I do when hearing a terrible comedian or a speaker try an unfunny joke. Some women on magazine and newspaper style pages are over-gussied with legs akimbo on skyscraper shoes that make them take awkward poses so as not to crash–so unnecessary. And those low-scooped, too-tight t-shirts over rings of fat are puzzles. T-shirts and tops come in a range of sizes or don’t some people realize it?

**Tired of reading about the annoying Valley girl sing song? The deliberate high speed chatter/swallowed words affectation that some young people use, especially when copied by older people so as to appear to be young, registers high on my list of peeves.

 **I will boycott media that pays Casey Anthony one cent for an interview. I don’t think the press should pay for news to begin with.

Do let loose on your pet peeves! You’ll feel better getting them off your chest–promise!

I'm All Ears

I'm All Ears

Service of Snow

Monday, January 31st, 2011

snowman

Snow’s been in the news: There’s far too much of it in and around New York–more expected–and not a flake in China where it’s needed to assuage a drought.

soupSnow brings income to folks working snowplows and shovels. Sanitation workers in city and country must be celebrating their overtime paychecks. Boot, sand and salt sales are soaring and I saw a growing line of 18 waiting for soup at Hale & Hearty in the basement of Grand Central. There were countless other  super food choices-great pizza, fabulous hot dogs and brisket sandwiches–but snow inspires hot soup cravings.

Meanwhile a client bemoans the weather’s affect on retail sales, restaurants are empty and timing couldn’t be worse for Restaurant Week in New York–through February 6-where participating eateries charge $24.07 and $35 for lunch and dinner, respectively. [Can’t figure out the reason for seven cents. Why not $20.11 and cut down portions?]

I buy newspapers from a man who sits on the sidewalk on Lexington Avenue and 44th Street. I asked him how he’s doing. The storms and frigid temperatures have severely affected his monthly take. He nevertheless smiled at me and wished me a good weekend. I’d like to bottle his spirit.

shovelGood Samaritans are busy: Snow seems to bring out the best in people. One helped us out of a bad spot and wouldn’t take anything but our heartfelt thanks. We park our car outdoors at a railroad station. Snowplows had piled over 20 inches of frozen stuff at the back of our car and there was another 30 inches in front. We were using our gloved hands and a foot-long brush with plastic ice chipper to clear the car windows when this angel jumped out of his car offering to shovel us out. Even with this help, it took a while to free the vehicle. Cat litter we’d purposely left in the trunk provided essential traction for our spinning wheels. There was ice under the snow. The Samaritan didn’t leave until the car was on a clear road and the remaining snow removal was viable with our limited equipment. He said, “I hope someone will help me one day when I need it,” and drove off.

In another instance, a friend asked me for gift ideas for her Dad’s neighbors, a family with three young children. Her Dad lives alone in a house on Long Island which has been severely and consistently hit by December and January’s mega storms. His neighbors have routinely cleaned his driveway with their snow blower and if they’ve hired someone with more powerful equipment, they send the plow over to his driveway and pay for the service. They never ask; they just do it.

Do you have any snow-related thoughts and tales to share?

christmas2010-018

Service of Compassion in Medical Care

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

doctorwhitecoat

Just how much empathy and compassion should a doctor feel and exhibit? I’m of two minds.

Dr. Sally Satel, who wrote “Physician, Humanize Thyself” in The Wall Street Journal, spoke of the White Coat Ceremony for medical students that she claimed Dr. Arnold P. Gold of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons popularized. The symbolism of the ceremony, according to the Columbia University chaplain, is for doctors to consider their coats “cloaks of compassion.” Medical schools all over the country now conduct these ceremonies.

And I’m all for it. Having witnessed a top-rated specialist [according to a yearly listing in New York Magazine] treat my husband, who was suffering and weak, with less compassion than a plumber would feel for a pipe, I question the man’s reason for becoming a doctor. We see misfits in all sorts of professions, which is no excuse, but this fellow was all sorts of things he didn’t have to be: Rude, offhanded and wrong to the extreme in his approach to a diagnosis. Turned out my husband did have something in this person’s specialty, generated by a nasty tick bite, causing two+ months high fever and eventually the inability to get out of bed. [Husband is fine now.] A person like this doctor wouldn’t understand the significance of this or any other kind of compassion-related ceremony.

wheelchair1On the other hand, when confronted with horrendous disfigurement and frailty or facing a tricky operation with scalpel in hand, a doctor whose empathy makes him fall apart isn’t of much help, either. Referring to “respectful attentiveness and a genuine commitment to a patient’s welfare” Dr. Satel wrote: “It happens not in the classroom, of course, but ideally on the wards and in clinics under the watchful mentorship of seasoned physicians.” Maybe the nasty doctor spent all his time in the classroom.

Dr. Satel points to government intrusion, at junctures in recent history, as the cause for lack of compassion. As doctors are increasingly robbed of options by insurance companies and/or time–because of paperwork required by government regulation in combination with the numbers of patients they must treat in order to meet budgets and satisfy what Medicare will pay for-they can’t squeeze in anything else, much less compassion. [Medicaid seems to have an unlimited bank account and my advice is if you get really sick, sell everything and go on Medicaid, but I digress].

jugglingSatel concludes: “Juggling the timeless injunction to all doctors-be a mensch-with concepts like ‘Medicare metrics’ and ‘standardization’ (the new watchwords in health reform) will make it even harder for the newly coated students to become the kind of doctors that they themselves would like to have. An induction ritual acknowledging as much wouldn’t hurt.”

Wouldn’t a compassionate person still be compassionate under any circumstances? Is it the patient’s fault that a doctor must see 30 patients in the time she/he used to see eight to 10 or that the doctor has a pound of paperwork to fill out after every visit?

What can the public do about changing this increasingly unreasonable turn of events?

compassion

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