America is an interesting country: so many people from so many different walks of life. Everyone rushing in their own directions with little time or interest in those from different cultures or religions until something happens or some aid is needed. The world saw it on 9/11 when people from Kentucky drove to New York City to aid in what was initially thought to be a rescue operation. In the U.S. a major tragedy is not needed for this to occur, aiding strangers is a way of life. It happens every day in both small and major ways. Ask for directions on a crowded street and you are very likely to get a detailed map on how to arrive at your destination. If there is a car accident the professional first responders are still on their way when passersby are already providing assistance. While this is not unique to just America in my experience the enthusiasm of the response is. No matter your race, religion, color or creed an anonymous neighbor or citizen will be there to aid.
This is perhaps even more obvious in a hospital setting. I have seen the responses of the health care staff at Israeli hospitals; there is no bias in caring for patients. Nurses, doctors and aides take compassionate care of all their charges equally. This is a subject of many human interest news reports, even movies. It is a noble approach and one that should exist beyond the walls of the hospital. In the U.S. where there are usually many more subgroups of people to interact within the hospital setting the involvement takes on an even more profound approach to respect and care. America was once referred to as a melting pot. I think it is more like a chulent and I think the best place to sample and document the many tastes that are brought together is in a hospital setting.
For over a week now my father has been hospitalized. It is true that he is in a hospital at which I am on staff but it is a major teaching facility in the New York metropolitan area. There are many patients in dire need who are treated at this facility. They come from many walks of life and many different backgrounds. They all have needs and families needing support. What has impressed me before is now doubly impressive.
My father was brought into the hospital emergency room by ambulance. The triage nurse was advised by the Hatzolah driver that I, who accompanied them to the hospital, was on staff and my father should get special care. The nurse responded – “This is North Shore we take great care of everyone.” Of course she was right. I saw it in the ER myself on a day when well over 80 patients arrived with a broad range of serious to critical needs. On the Shabbat elevator which stops at every floor and could have been seen as causing unreasonable delay by those who do not need it, the non-Jewish staff was understanding, compassionate and had just the right degree of lighthearted kindness to show real signs of caring; respect and caring for everyone. On the floor, that my Father is on the staff is respectful and caring. In speaking with others, it is clear that all of the staff acted the same way. When I pointed it out to one of the doctors his candid response was “It’s all about being there for someone.” The nurses and aides acted at times almost like a concierge at a fine hotel anticipating the needs of patients and providing for those needs. And, this environment of support led patients and families to be supportive to other patients and families. And, as the research shows social support is an important aid for health.
I think there is an essential lesson to be learned from my personal experience that goes well beyond one type of health care setting. At this time of year when we pray for health and well-being we also pray for peace. Basic respect and caring for one another will help bring the peace we all long for.