"People who need people are the luckiest people in the world."
~ Barbra Streisand
When I was a resident, every now and then I'd get a phone call from my chief resident asking if I'd be willing to switch a call or swap an assignment with someone. Sometimes it was because a person had an illness in the family or some other unforeseeable issue. But you know? A lot of the time, it wasn't that. It was just because of some snafu or simple human error that could only be remedied by another human being willing to be malleable.
Now that I'm a full grown faculty member, that still happens all the time. And just like in those days, it's still a huge relief to finally secure a finger in the dike of whatever counts as your last minute leak. So as far as that goes, there's truly nothing new under the sun.
I will never forget the day I was trying to put out a fire with one of my co-chief residents during our year together. We were looking to fix a hole in the schedule after a resident struggling with depression had been given some much needed but sudden leave. And see, something like a person needing coverage for self care, specifically the kind of highly personal care associated with mental health, is always tricky. We'd been scrambling around all morning to find someone and hadn't been lucky at all. That is, until finally, one of the second years came into the office and said, "I got your page. What's up?"
"We have a situation," my co-chief said. "I won't even sugar coat it. We badly need someone to take a ward team for April. I know you're on elective but due to an unforeseen circumstance, we are without a resident."
"Wow. Is everything okay?"
"It will be," I chimed in. "Thanks for asking."
And so. That second year resident stood in the door way squinting his eyes and looking skyward. Then he reached into his white coat, pulled out a tiny calendar book and flipped the pages to April. Slowly he ran his finger tip over each day, making certain there wasn't a conflict. "Can I make a quick phone call before giving you an answer?" he asked.
Our eyes widened in disbelief and in unison we responded with eager nods. And with that, that R2 disappeared around the corner to use a phone at the program coordinator's desk.
"He's gonna do it," my co-chief said.
"Yep. If he can, he will."
"You know? You're right. It's funny. Some people are just considerers and some just aren't."
I'm not even sure where I got that from--that term "considerers." But when I said it, Jeff smacked his hand down on the desk and said, "Exactly! Exactly! Some are considerers and some just aren't. Yes. That. That!" And we both just laughed and laughed because, after an entire morning of being met with "non-considerers" we knew that no words could be truer than these.
So here's what got me thinking about that this morning. Last night I was working on my spring schedule. It's really pretty crazy--lots of speaking engagements and two major national meetings, one of which isn't even in the U.S. (Okay, which technically makes one of them inter-national, but you get the point.) My children with their crazy schedules and, of course, my career as a clinician educator.
Oh yes. That.
Well. In this whole process of securing hotels and making plane reservations and colleague coordination and sending in materials, I discovered a conflict. And not just a little conflict-tito, either. A major faux pas that would bust my groove--especially since I've not yet mastered the art of being in two places at one time.
So I study the master schedule and start trying to think. And by think I mean figure out who-who-who might be able but more importantly willing to help a sista out of her self-inflicted rut.
Now. Of course, I looked first to see what all of my friend-colleagues had going on during that time. When friendship is involved, the considerer card doesn't really need to be played because consideration comes from the desire to simply help out a friend in need. But, in this instance, I could see that every one of my own "go to" people were already out of the question.
And so. I looked to see who specifically might be able to work during that specific time. I shot off a few very late night emails and went to sleep hoping for the best.
Now. This morning, I had already received three responses. And you know? All three of them warmed my heart and made it sing a little bit. Because all three of the people who responded to me were, like that second year who'd come in person to see how he could help, real, true considerers.
One said, "I just need to check a couple of things on my schedule and think I may be able to help you. Give me a couple of hours."
Another said, "I will actually be at a conference for part of that time, too. If I can cover the part you need and maybe arrange a three way swap with someone else, I could probably do that."
And lastly this: "Hey Kim--just want to make sure I have the dates you need correctly."
So I replied to all of them including the last person, to whom I gave the precise dates. And you know what? Two minutes later she replied:
"Okay. Happy to help."
That's it. That's all.
Sure. Maybe what I needed worked out swimmingly well for the schedules of two of these three people. But you know? I somehow doubt it. Moreover, none of the people I asked are the type that anyone could walk over or railroad into doing something that really isn't rational for their current work load, either.
But they were considerers. People who genuinely look at your problem, consider who is asking and the circumstance, weigh their options, and then truly give real thought to their ability to help--even if it involves some slight inconvenience on their part.
This isn't just with work either. It's across the board, man. Like, in life, some people are just considerers and some aren't. My mother? She is the ultimate considerer. She is. And Lord knows--my mama is no milquetoast when it comes to standing up and doing things on her terms. But damn, she helps us out. I'm talking big time, she does. And when she can't, she just can't.
But can't is different than won't. Yes. That.
See, considerers usually tell you no when they can't do something. And sure, that can't can be a very person thing like simply being tired as hell from a long work week or having some plan already that can't really be changed or even something that is altogether none of my business. But mostly considerers will at least sit for a moment and actually think it through. Without automatically saying no.
Conversely, there are some really good people out there who just aren't considerers. They just aren't. Sure, they reply to your email with some heartfelt-ish words of apology (that is, if it was sent as an individual request) but mostly whatever is requested is met with silent indifference. Or, at least, what feels like that.
I do believe in drawing lines and trying not to get too overextended. I don't recommend always being a yes man or woman, nor do I think folks should be human doormats. Nope, I am not exactly keen on always looking out for those who don't ever-not-ever look out for others people. That has to be factored in there somewhere, you know? Yeah, so regardless of all that--this morning, in particular, it's simple. I'm just deeply appreciating the people in my life both personally and professionally who are considerers, man. I am. Because we all need help sometimes. Help that inconveniences or puts someone out of their way. And without them--the considerers--those who need the considering will always be in lurch..
You know? I really try to be a considerer. I do. Our lives and worlds can become so self-centered though that it's a work in progress. For some people, that's always come naturally. I admit it hasn't always for me--when I was younger especially. Sure, I looked out for my friends, but that was mostly it. But the older I get, the more I've come to see how critical it is to have people who are at least willing to TRY to come through for you in the clutch. And you know what else I've learned? It actually does your heart good to be the person who DOES come through for someone else.
Deanna? Oh, she was the ultimate considerer. Anyone who knew her would tell you that. (And okay I did say that my mom was the ultimate considerer but let's just say they're in lockstep for that distinction.) Deanna? She'd pick your kids up in a pinch, help with whatever she could, and just go out of her way, man. My sister JoLai is this way, too. And even though, like my mom, her no meant no--it was never an empty, faceless no. The request had been at least spread out on the table, placed on a mental post it note and . . just. . .considered, man. Considered.
Today, I am vowing to be more like them--the considerers. More like my mom who let me drive her truck last week so that I could have more space to haul kids. And my sister JoLai who sits on the phone and lets me read her entire essays out loud before sending them in for publication even when she has 250 things to do. More like my friend Jill who went and took Zachary a lunch to school when I had forgotten even though she had the morning off and had a ton of work to do. More like my three colleagues who, without even flinching, actually registered my concern into their own lives and schedules to see how they just might be able to really-not-just-theoretically assist. And lastly, like Deanna--who never, ever missed a chance to see what she could do to lighten another person's load. And more authentic in my assessments of what is feasible and what isn't. . . along with an appropriate willingness to be willing to change things around to help.
You know? I guess if Miss Barbra Streisand is right and people who need people are the actually the luckiest people in the world? Maaaan, that means I'm super lucky. Super, duper lucky. 'Cause damn, I need people. I truly, truly need people.
Oh yeah--just in case you were wondering what happened with the second year resident and that ward month? After speaking with his wife on the phone, he realized that he had a family conflict that would make a ward month really challenging for him to take on. But it all worked out because a few moments later, another considerer came along who could.
Happy Tuesday. And shout out to all the sho nuff considerers out there.
Now playing on my mental iPod. Sing, Miss Barbra. You better SING that song, chile!