There are many aspects of personality that may not appear apparent on the surface. As a physician, many folks have a perspective of me as a serious, taciturn person. My medical practice very often places me in life-or-death situations, and I frequently must have hard, difficult conversations with patients and families. I am introverted and would prefer sitting in a quiet room with quiet music while reading a book. But to say that is all that I am, or that fully encompasses my being would be wrong.
There is more to me than that.
This struck me as I sat recently in a room with several residents, physicians who are at various stages of training and experience. We had talked about a difficult issue involving communication with a patient and their family. As the room was quiet, a thought filled my mind: “Darmok and Jalad at Tenagra.”
Ok, I’m not crazy. Let me explain. Just seeing me and knowing the outline of my life, you might never suspect that I am an avid Trekker — I don’t mean I go on a lot of trips. I just love all things Star Trek. Darmok is my favorite episode of “The Next Generation” series of Star Trek. Of course, when I explained this, the residents all laughed.
Don’t always judge a book by its cover. After the laughter, I proceeded to explain the episode and what I was trying to say. I even went so far as to find a short YouTube excerpt to play for them.
The reason I love this episode is that it is about how we can speak the same words and mean very different things. The universal translator reduced the alien language to English words and syntax — but it made no sense to the humans. The alien commander transported himself and an unwilling Capt. Picard into a life-threatening situation. Once they were under the pressure and necessity of the situation, they achieved basic understanding and communication, but the effort cost the alien commander his life. Picard realized the aliens spoke in metaphor and allegory. An example would be that if I wanted to tell Juli how much I loved her, I might say, “Romeo and Juliet on the balcony.”
For this kind of communication to work, they had to learn more of each other’s history. Superficiality had to be thrown out, and they had to learn stories of heritage. Knowing more about each other enabled them to understand, interact and devise a lifesaving strategy.
I explained to the residents that there is always a cost to effectively communicating with our patients and families, as well as to each other. We must reach outside of ourselves to others to make a difference. There is a need to see the world from another’s perspective; to learn others’ background and history to enable compassion and support. As we provide care to our patients, one of the most important aspects to maximizing recovery is providing emotional support that can only be obtained by listening and learning.
So often we are willing to accept superficial encounters in our lives. We cannot have full emotional commitments with every person we meet and survive. We all triage our relationships. However, there are times when we need to climb out of ourselves and be willing to reach out to others. Often, we perform that relational triage with subconscious bias. Is knowing this person worth my effort? Am I willing to contribute the effort required to build a worthwhile relationship? So, we often choose to indeed “judge a book by its cover.”
Persons with disabilities are often books whose covers might cause you to question whether you should make that investment. You may see a child or person in a wheelchair, or someone who requires braces and crutches, or someone whose speech is not easily understood and make judgements. There may be someone who looks differently than you do. You have the choice to decide what your interest and involvement will be.
I would just like to encourage you to be sensitive to that tug on your heart that is calling you to meet that person. I am not asking you to devote all your time and effort to supporting and caring for special needs children. It may not be your mission in life to be a leader in disability rights. However, hopefully your heart will call you; don’t resist. Take that chance; open that book of communication and see what’s really there. Maybe, you will have a simple but interesting conversation. It’s possible that you may develop a valuable relationship and will find those relationships infinitely rewarding. It will change you for the better.
My life is so much richer for what those who do not look like me have taught me. It is my hope that you will find the same.
Listening Library: Be Alright (Songwriters: Amanda Cook, Ben Schofield, Dante Bowe) https://youtu.be/52144AMNi94
“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8 NIV)
This is dedicated to the broken The hurt and lonely and forgotten ones This goes out to the weary Let's keep dancing while the day is young
This right here is for the sleepless Trying to make it in the fire ones This is for the abandoned Let's keep dancing while the day is young
'Cause it'll be alright, alright, alright Alright, alright, alright It's gonna be alright, alright, alright Alright, alright, alright This won't last forever Baby, it's gonna get better It'll be alright, alright, alright Alright, alright
I'm singin' out to the hidden Waiting for the fruit that their hands have sown Did you know there's a promise? You'll get more than what you bargained for
This is for the lonely The ones that loved and the ones that lost I know your heart may be hurting Let's keep dancing till the day is done
'Cause it'll be alright, alright, alright Alright, alright, alright It's gonna be alright, alright, alright Alright, alright, alright This won't last forever Baby, it's gonna get better
It'll be alright, alright, alright Alright, alright
There's a new, new day
There's a new, new day comin'
There's a new, new day
Just keep dancin' (just keep dancin')
Oh, there's a new, new day There's a new, new day comin' There's a new, new day Just keep dancin'
If you're standing on the edge Or if you're home alone with a loaded gun There's strength at your lowest Life's worth living, you have just begun
BE ALRIGHT LYRICS © ALL ESSENTIAL MUSIC, BEN SCHOFIELD PUBLISHING,
BETHEL WORSHIP PUBLISHING, MAVERICK CITY PUBLISHING