The other day I went to a hospital to complete some routine blood tests. My appointment was early in the day yet when I arrived a number of people were already waiting. The receptionist couldn’t find my record on her computer and it took a conference of several staff members to finally locate the order for my tests. “They could be in a couple of places,” one of them said a little coolly. “Why don’t you try under ______?” Her guidance was helpful to the receptionist, if brisk, but when the right screen came up the exact nature of the tests was unclear. Someone had to make a phone call, delaying things further. Eventually, I was guided to a back room where I could wait in private.
A few minutes later, one of the staff who’d been guiding the receptionist took me to another clinic room where the tests would be done. She had an accent, Russian maybe, though I’m certainly no expert. We exchanged some pleasantries. Her manner was lovely, both warm and efficient.
“Looks like you are very busy this morning,” I suggested.
“Yes, I don’t have any helpers today,” she said, seemingly in contradiction to the number of staff at the front desk. “So things are going to be a little crazy.” By this point she was already putting a strap on my arm and had readied her needle.
“But I’m a professional,” she continued with a smile. “I can handle it.”
And the way she said it, with genuine good humor, left no question in my mind that indeed she would. I’m always grateful for such good people, working hard to make things right and compensate for problems, not because they are told to or they are afraid of being fired, but because it’s in their heart to do the right thing, no matter what is happening, especially when it comes to helping others.
Within a few moments I was done and on my way, my blood resting in labeled vials ready for the science to take over.
Each moment offers a look into the pond, doesn’t it? — a look into an organization is what I mean to say: the inadequate systems, perhaps a technology problem or one of training or scheduling; the frustrated staff putting on a good face for me while things are being sorted out and while others impatiently wait; the professionalism leaking just a hint of the here and now, continuing challenges they face every day.
The pond reflects a certain amount of sky beneath which we cannot see, but there are clear areas where you see to the bottom, although for sure we look through the distortions of our own private assumptions and experience.
I like to think that when the water smooths for a moment and you see all the way down, you can observe the true soul of a place — which is actually no more than the soul of the people who are there, what they feel and experience and how they treat each other. You can quickly tell whether this is a good place to be or one where each day people drown just a little more.
And then you have to decide for yourself how much of all that is personal projection and how much of it is real.