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.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A New Era of Hope

There seems to be a new age of social entrepreneurs and social change on the horizon. This involves citizens and big companies encouraging and enabling change at the individual level. What's amazing is that these causes have found ways to involve individuals in ways that are new - from an individual purchase at the consumer level, to helping fund an individual's dreams, to finding ways to fund change at a community level - these initiatives are funding hope.

1. Tactics of Hope
Both a website and a book, Wilford Welch has taken a new look at social entrepreneurs and their involvement with community and global change. The book makes inroads in the individual's questions of "what can I do and where do I start?" It sites amazing examples of people and foundations that have found a way to make a difference. One of my favorite examples is of "Play Pumps;" funded by advertising money, these merrigo round play ground installations power pumps that provide water for whole communities.

The book acts as a catalog of success stories, and gives great examples of how dedicated efforts can make a difference. The site allows you to look for causes that you might be passionate about, and links you up with other people who want to make a change. Both are powerful tools.

2. Awearness by Kenneth Cole
For 25 years, Kenneth Cole has made products that support specific causes - usually in his clothing or accessory line. As a nod to those 25 years, he has launched a blog that focuses on social rights, well-being, political landscape and hard times. It also features authors from the book Awearness, which includes 86 stories from ninety individuals who have been inspired to create social change.

3. Product (Red)
Product (Red) "is an ingenious idea that unites our incredible collective power as consumers with our innate urge to help others." The idea is that people shop and buy (Red) branded products, and included in the price of the product is a set amount that gets donated directly to the Global Fund. Product (Red) supports the Global Fund by having individual companies license the (Red) logo, and in turn agree to donate a percentage of their profit on that item to Africa. These brands include American Express, Apple, Converse, Dell, Emporio Armani, Gap, Hallmark, and Microsoft.

The spokesperson for (Red) is none other than social activist Bono, and he has garnered a good deal of support to promote awareness of the campaign itself.

What impresses me about these three efforts is that people are working to find new ways to support social change. While each of them has rightfully received their own recognition, they each stand out for different reasons. Each effort is working to recognize the power of a unified community, the power of consumers, and the power of individual choices in making the world a better place. How will you join this new era of hope?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday of Music and Levity

I found this picture today on Flickr and loved it. I love her look of determination, of near innocence, of spirit.

Originally uploaded by Olivia Bee

I also found this music, its David Berkeley.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A small write up in "Journeys"

The retreat planning team I work with was founded a few years ago by Sister Michelle L'Allier, a member of the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, Minnesota. She is an amazing, inspiring woman, with a great passion for retreat work and other ministry. We were sad to have her return to Minnesota a couple of years ago, and our team was presented with the task of continuing to plan, run and lead retreats without her.

What's happened has been amazing. There is a core group of us, bound by friendship, and we continue her work. It is truly a labor of love, and while finding meeting time in the midst of busy schedules can be difficult, we are able to stay together and work hard at something that is truly bigger than each of us alone.

Beyond that, as Sister Michelle says, we've become like family to each other. One of the most profound parts of our monthly (or so) meetings is our check in. We each give an update about how our life is going, what our challenges and celebrations are. And in this sharing, we have come to know each other well. In our time together there have been businesses started, careers changed, babies born, races ran, relationships come and gone, baptisms, a CD released, improv comedy shared, and so much more. We are there for each other. Through it all.

Sister Michelle let us know that she'd included our little team and its successes in a recent article she wrote for "Journeys," which is a publication by The Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls. It's heart warming to be included in her article. Here it is, for you to read, share and celebrate:

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The beach!

This weekend we are taking care of my sister's dog, Joseph. In a little bit, we are going to take this young critter over to the beach at Half Moon Bay. He LOVES the beach, in a way that is so endearing. Here's a picture that my mom took of him once, looking out the window at the water. You can tell he can't wait to get out there.

We also have plans to have a Hawaiian themed dinner at our place next weekend. Partly in "honor" of our trip, but also to celebrate the friendship of a group of people I went to college with. It's a joy to see that we've all remained friends. We'll get to hear about Cris' honeymoon, our trip to Maui, and get to visit with my friend's new baby. I think it may be one of his first dinner parties :)

So, in order to get ready for this little shindig ... I've been hunting all over for a nice Hawaiian table cloth. Why we didn't pick one up at Walmart, I will never know. Anyway it goes, I know it will be a great night with amazing people.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

"Hope" or "Hate"

The other day I was sitting at a stop light and noticed two cars, each with a bumper sticker:

Car One: If you surrender to HATE you've already LOST

Care Two: Got Hope?

I was really struck by the two vastly different mindsets these stickers call upon. And what an amazing glimpse of society this was, sitting right in front of me. Car One is focused on surrender, hate, and loss. Moreover, the spirit of this sticker is buying into the western ideal that for every event, there is a winner and a loser; that there is no middle ground to just "be." Car Two focuses on the simple question of hope (and yes, I'm aware its an Obama sticker, but I'm choosing not to reflect on the political undertones here).

It made me wonder - if we had just one saying, one reflection we could broadcast to others, what would we choose. What do we each of us focus on, day to day?

I've heard that Mother Theresa was once asked if she would join a march against war. Her response was "tell me when you are marching for peace." She was determined to be focused on the good, on the right thing, on the thing that would help all of humanity.

I truly believe that we bring into our lives those things that we focus on. Every day we can make the choice to focus on hope, on love, on peace, on unity. Instead of associating yourself with surrender, hate and loss, wouldn't the better bumper sticker be "Choose LOVE?"

Choosing to let love motivate your decision making everyday can be a challenge. Sometimes its easier to pick fear, and let it motivate us to do things. Like telling a little lie to avoid hurting someone, give in to gossiping because we want to be accepted, commiserating with others about "how bad everything is these days." The list can go on and on, but I believe that we we look into our hearts, choosing fear is not our true nature. We only choose fear when our ego leads the way and when we give into thinking that we are not good enough.

When we pick love, however, its easy to see things in a positive light. We can be kind to everyone, we can be joyful, we can tell the truth, we can focus on what's good, and we can be determined to make a difference every day. When we choose hope and love, we become powerful. Powerful as individuals and powerful in communities.

As you go through your days, I encourage you to be mindful of which mindset you are following. And, I encourage you to pick love, hope and courage, even when it seems like it might be hard.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The hand you're dealt

I finished reading The Shack on our way back from Maui. It was a strangely long trip, so I had plenty of time. At first glance, I was certain it was the kind of book that I would not like. The back cover states that the book is about the murder of a six year old girl in some shack in the woods. But my dear friend Kathy said I had to read it, so I did.

There's a lot to like about the book. I really loved what the author did with the character of the Holy Spirit; usually a difficult concept to grasp for me. But Wm. Paul Young does a nice job of acknowledging the complexity of the Holy Spirit and describes "her" in a delightful and comprehensible way. I also loved the representation of the Trinity in the book. The relationship of the three is real, understandable and affirming.

What I take away from the book is somewhere between the thoughts of Wayne Dyer and Randy Pausch. I saw a lot of the "when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change" in this book. Truly, each of us makes a choice to interpret life's events in either a ego based way, or in a more universal, loved based way. When you can acknowledge that your role in assessing a situation impacts how you eventually interpret its outcome, its a huge step in the right direction.

Randy Pausch, author of "The Last Lecture" also talks a little about someone's attitude towards any given situation. He says that while you have no control over the cards you are dealt, the true test is in how you play the hand. In his case, he has terminal pancreatic cancer, and has decided that he will live each day to the fullest, and enjoy each moment as much as possible. While he is not specifically religious, this mentality seems deeply spiritual. His story is amazing.

So, we're not supposed to reveal the full story of "The Shack." It is good, and it is uplifting. I am glad that it was recommended to me.