I had a chance to do something today that I’d never previously done in my 36 years on this earth. I visited inner-city poor people in a major U.S. city.
Me. A tall, doughy-skinned, somewhat naive woman who lives in a city where the vast majority of her neighbors look the same.
Me. A person who’s lived in five different places, all located within 15 miles of the other over three decades.
Me. A former spinner on the mouse wheel of corporate America turned advocate for change.
I don’t talk much on this blog about what I do for a profession. And that’s intentional. I learned long ago that it was best for me to separate my work life from my social life.
When my children were babies, I second-guessed my decision to work at all. On those dreadful mornings when one of them would cry out for me as I returned to my car to leave them at daycare, trying not to let them see me cry myself, I hated the idea that I abandoned them. I never wanted them to think their mom valued the almighty dollar over their happiness.
I saw those kinds of parents at the office. They clocked in early, left late, traveled often, and I wondered if they took pride in how many meetings and high-profile events they attended. Were they more concerned about being known by others than being known by their children? Did they justify their actions based on the size of their massive homes and the vastness of their personal toy collection? Did they need to be reminded that none of the credentials trailing behind their names was as important as the letters “M.O.M.” or “D.A.D.” in the eyes of their offspring?
It was during those years when I learned this about myself: No profession, no matter how fulfilling, will ever be more important to me than family.
So you can imagine my relief when, just over a year ago, I found a company that allowed me to put my family first as well as gave me the opportunity to positively impact other families.
I now work with the poorer population, specifically on trying to improve access to health care and outcomes. What I do is not always considered useful or socially acceptable.
I’ve learned that as a people in general, we like to preach. We like to judge. It’s easier to criticize what’s going wrong (and, believe me, I know a LOT is going wrong in health care) versus build up the right.
I had the chance to shadow a young woman today who is building up the right. Her job is to visit with people who haven’t been to their doctors and ask them why. She goes to their homes, answers questions, schedules appointments, and shows genuine concern.
She’s also completing her last year of studies to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology. A mom of three just like me.
It costs money to send people like her out into communities. Some may wonder why on earth money is spent on reminding people to do something that comes so naturally to so many of us. I mean, come on, visiting a doctor isn’t that hard.
That is, if you have a car like I do. If you have a job that gives you PTO like I do. If you have someone to watch your kids like i do. If you had a mom or dad who introduced you to a pediatrician like mine did. If you speak the same language as the office staff who schedule the appointments. If….if…if…
I learned the power of not making assumptions today. Every person is an individual with individual needs.
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
― Leo Buscaglia
Created by Heidi Woodard