Three women gathered outside the door. One, almost 6 feet tall and broad, stood with two smaller women. One was petite with curly hair, and the other was thin with a drawn and angular face. I had seen them before. They were discussing a patient’s lunch and the fact that she hadn’t eaten. But it was not about the patient’s health.
“She didn’t eat it?” asked one.
“It’s still on the table,” said another. I was listening. I recognized the voice of the tall one.
“She ordered from outside,” said another.
They were “stage whispering.” My roommate had intestinal problems, and I had asked to have my lunch moved to another area. They had taken the tray too far away for me to retrieve it. Then, they became like “the disappeared.”
“She ordered from outside.”
Strange that I’m reflecting on those days this morning. I think it’s because I’m feeling luxuriously at ease within the sanctity of my bedroom. Maybe it’s because I’m indulging in nourishing, health giving food—green drinks, fresh fruit, foods I can enjoy now that I’m home. Perhaps it’s because I’m watching the snow melt and enjoying the morning sun at the top of the trees.
Recently, I did some minor research on skilled nursing facilities, also known as SNFs (sniffs). I was horrified to find a hideous historical link to workhouses for paupers. But, for me, it explained a strange fog of meanness that seemed to drift throughout some of these places. I’d heard stories of patients becoming ill after nursing assistants put bad medications into their food. My attitude was like, “sleep with one eye open.”
Mean-spiritedness is a trickle-down reaction. It trickles down from families, communities, politics and religion. Remember that trickle-down theory of economics? I thought you might.
These women hated their jobs. Most were immigrants receiving the lowest wages for the funkiest work: emptying bed pans, making beds, giving showers, and wiping up vomit or worse. I understood, but after waiting 3o minutes, I ordered pizza from a community restaurant and had it delivered to my stinky room.
Something occurs to me. The mean-spiritedness I experienced with the nursing assistants is the same and equal to the mean-spiritedness of religious extremists — of all faiths. Only the environments have changed.
Religious extremists fight – even crazily to the death — for control of our personal lives. Is it because these extremists’ lives are so rabidly out-of-control? Is it because they feel powerless in the face of their own human nature — just as the nursing assistants feel powerless in the face of their jobs?
Is it because they fear something within themselves that they advance racist fears, the persecution of homosexuals, and a hatred of women? Is it because their own human urgings are out of control?
When people can’t control their own lives, they try to control the lives of others. When people aren’t happy, they try to make others even less happy.
We’ve heard that “if they knew better, they’d do better.” Hmm.
I’m watching the snow melt and enjoying the morning sun at the top of the trees. I’m so happy to be home.