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Finding Kindness

Have you been in an airport lately? I have had a couple of flights in recent months and was struck by the signs posted by a number of the airlines. They ask that people be kind to their staff and say things like “please be courteous” and even “please do not use negative or unkind words.” We’ve all read stories of belligerent passengers and even physical attacks on flight attendants.

I find it jarring that businesses have to post signs and implore people to use simple courtesy. But jarring or not, it is true. And it is true in every business, senior services among them.

We know that the work we do is difficult. We know that elders, and especially family members, struggle with changes in their loved one’s condition, with seeing decline, with wanting their mother/father/husband/wife to be the person that they were, the person that they remember and not some new, frail, perhaps compromised version of themselves.

Stress shortens all of our fuses, we know that. Yet it seems today that the fuses take little to light and erupt in a moment. Healthcare staff are some of the strongest people I have ever known. Especially now. They have fought through the worst days of pandemic and are still struggling with the challenges that this lingering COVID scourge has brought. Many of them have lost friends, family and colleagues.  Staffing is tight and recruiting is a constant battle. Yet they come to work every day and pour all they have into the work that they do.

Some families understand and appreciate their efforts. And some, for reasons known only to them, berate and belittle, demand and demean members of the team. It is demoralizing to the staff members and disheartening to the organization as a whole. Although not everything is always perfect, the effort to get it right and do the best we can is unwavering.

There is no shortage of media reports on frustrated and angry consumers. We all have those moments when we wonder if customer service still exists, when being on hold is endless, and we hear those dreaded words “it’s a supply chain issue.” We’ve all had a difficult and anxiety-filled two years and that has a taken a toll as well.

Yet, I think about how little effort it takes to be patient and kind, how much more easily an interaction can proceed if we use common courtesy, if we ask rather than tell, if we show appreciation rather than anger. My mother lived by the philosophy “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything.” It was how she conducted herself in all circumstances. I will never claim to be the person who can do that but I believe that there is much to be gained, for us as individuals and as a society, if we remember to be kind, if we remember to think before we speak, if we remember to listen, if we remember to be courteous.

About the Author
Carol Silver Elliott is President and CEO of The Jewish Home Family, which runs NJ's Jewish Home at Rockleigh, Jewish Home Assisted Living, Jewish Home Foundation and Jewish Home at Home. She joined The Jewish Home Family in 2014. Previously, she served as President and CEO of Cedar Village Retirement Community in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is past chair of LeadingAge and the Association of Jewish Aging Services.
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