Monday, November 24, 2008

Patience, and the role of the Pharmacist

The Scenario
Today I walked over to Walgreen's to get a refill on a prescription. I could call it in, but I'll be honest that I often forget to bring my prescription refill number, and since we have the luxury of having Walgreen's across the street from the office, I just walk over there at lunch. I like Walgreen's, I like that everything under the sun can be purchased there, and I like the pharmacist because she's kind and efficient.

The prescription I get refilled every four to six week is Amerge. It's migraine medicine, and I've taken it for oh, a year now. Not the most fun thing to have to buy, but I'm good and proactive about getting it refilled. I know I have three pills left at home. And I know that since I will be traveling over Thanksgiving, it makes sense to have more on hand.

So, I get to Walgreen's and I go to the "Prescription Refill" counter. The sign there directs me over to the other Pharmacy Counter. And, yes, there are four other people in line. I realize at this point that 12:30pm, only a few days before Thanksgiving, well, of course Walgreen's will be busy. So, I take my place in line, and tell myself its good to be patient, everyone here needs something, too.

Enter "Woman in a Rush," who comes over and looks at the line and asks hurriedly, "Are you all in line?" Her arms seem to be full of various products, but its the anxious air and somewhat self-important attitude that I notice about her first.

"Yes," I reply, "I'm waiting to put in a prescription refill, and it looks like they are just working from just one line right now." I noted that my tone was even, not rushed, but patient.

"Well!" says Woman in a Rush, who proceeds to put five different boxes of Monistat, Vagisil, and other creams on the counter. "All I really need a consultation, so I don't think I need to wait in that line!" I eyed the items she had in question and had to agree, that yes, it appeared she did need a consultation. I decided not to say a thing, and just wait with the rest of my comrades in line.

Of course, this made the panic in me rise. This Woman in a Rush had determined that she was more important than the rest of us, and had staked her claim at the "Consultation" area. I felt a little pang of concern; I was ready to wait for my request, but what if this Woman decided to make an issue of it?

"Calm," I thought, "just stay calm." And, sure enough the next couple of people got helped, and it was my turn. I got the main Pharmacist, who I recognize. She says she can put in the refill, but I'll just need to step over to the "Consultation" window so she can enter it in the system.

Woman in a Rush perks right up as the Pharmacist approaches. I've followed her over, and I'm standing right behind the Rushed Woman. She says,"Oh, I've been waiting to get a consultation on these," and points to the vaginal creams. "I'm next in line."

The main pharmacist says, "I'm helping this woman now. We're working from just one line, which is behind you, and if you can wait, we will help you soon."

And, this is just what should happen, and I'm relieved and happy that it has transpired just as it should. My angst over the line jumping is over, although Rushed Woman managed to shoot me a glare as the pharmacist helped me.

So what's the lesson?
I walked away from this scene realizing there was a lot going on, and there was a lot to learn from these moments.

When do each of us make assumptions about other people, and why?
Surely Rushed Woman made assumptions about everyone in line, and had some reasons to believe she deserved immediate attention. Admittedly, I don't look "sick," so how bad could my situation be? Does it matter that you can't see from the outside that I get migraines? Would this Rushed Woman have acted differently if someone in line had a visible handicap? Or would her immediate need for a consultation been the same, regardless of the other people in the crowd.

The Pharmacist plays an interesting role in this scene.
If I recognize the Pharmacist, I have to imagine she recognizes many of the people who come in and stand in her line every day. I almost wonder if she has a list in her head of "there's the woman who has high blood pressure," "here's the person who takes anti-inflammatory drugs for their back," and so on. She knows we are each in the line, and we each have a need, many of those needs invisible and many of those needs are weighty and important to each of the people in the line.

The Pharmacist obviously takes her role seriously. She knows that people need her expertise, her guidance. She's careful to ask if I can wait for my medication or if I need it right away. She is good at her job and I admire her.

What's the lesson for me?
Each of us needs to be patient in life. While we don't know what's happening with other people around us, its not safe to assume that anyone has a greater need than we do. When we get rushed or anxious, or upset, its easy to think that our needs are more important, greater, more all encompassing than anyone else. But we can't see the big picture.

The only One that can truly see the big picture is God. I'm struck that the Pharmacist here knew more than anyone else in the scene. She was patient and fair. She did not let the anxious energy of one person take over the situation. She treated us each kindly and respectfully.

I wonder if God is often like this too; aware that each of us can get overwhelmed by our own problems and needs. That we often demand attention and become self centered, with ego ruling the way. But in the midst of it, God sees beyond that ego, and beyond our getting hung up on every day events. God lets us have moments like this, where we see that other people around us also have their own special circumstances. To remain compassionate and loving, to remain dedicated to helping each person, this is an enormous task. But God gives each of us what we need and in turn, allows us to grow. I'm in awe of the complexity of such a task, and somewhat humbled and amused that a scene in Walgreen's struck such a chord with me.

1 comment:

kateyleigh said...

Great post, Paula! It's so easy for us to assume our problems are the most pertinent in any given situation - they are, after all, the only ones we see in an anonymous situation like the pharmacy line. And on a related note, I think sometimes we try to "self-prescribe" when really God is the one who knows which Rx is right for us. If we would stop self-medicating and self-diagnosing and just let him do his job, I think we'd all find that our ailments are taken care of, even though sometimes it seems like it's taking an awfully long time to get the Rx filled. We just have to trust Him.