I had a physics teacher in high school named Mr. Jones. He was a brilliant older man who often solved problems in his head faster than the rest of us could key the numbers into our calculators. Inevitably, his lectures would venture away from the subject and toward some profound nugget of wisdom. Even though I earned the physics award my senior year, I remember none of the formulas he taught us 20 years ago, but I do remember so many of those little life lessons he shared.
One story involved his fondness for the Christmas saying, "You'd better be good for goodness sake." He didn't understand why people need a reason to be good and liked the simplicity of being good if only for the sake of goodness. It's a concept that, when practiced, is as beautiful as a symphony orchestra; when ignored, it is as noticeable as an out-of-tune piano.
I guess we've all been there: experienced free-floating hostility from someone who assumes their prominent status exempts them from tact. I generally overlook such behavior as unavoidable from the "Type-A" crowd, who occasionally trip over themselves in an attempt to direct others, forgetting that leadership is a position of service. However, it seems inexcusable for a medical professional—a doctor, no less—to be rude toward a patient for no apparent reason.
One of the eight doctors my wife saw during her recent stay in a local hospital was quick to blame her illnesses, ranging from blood clots to gallbladder disease, on her recent and allegedly irrational pregnancy at 40 years of age. He went on to say that such irresponsible parents (us) do not consider the potential risks or health burdens that will surely plague mother and child for many years to come.
I was not present for this consultation, and while that was probably a good thing, I still hate that my wife was alone during the scolding for her seemingly foolish participation in the miracle of life. Her special pregnancy (first discussed by me in "Mimic Registers," Vol. 9, Issue 4) and childbirth, which was without any complications, resulted in the blessing of our beautiful and healthy baby girl.
I've tried to rationalize his statements by blaming it on his foreign heritage: He was transplanted from a country where women are still considered lower class than men. But that doesn't make it right, nor does it satisfy my inquisition of his reasoning.
We are well aware of the increasing risk of birth defects as the mother advances into her late 30s and 40s. Trust me: We heard all about it during the pregnancies of both our kids. But all the other health professionals had managed to offer that message in an informative and preparatory manner rather than as a judgment or assessment of parental wisdom.
The fact remains that I wasn't there at that moment. Perhaps if I had been, I might have interpreted from his tone or gesture that he at least meant well. Meanwhile, I am thrilled to have my loving wife feeling better and back home with our 2-year-old son, our 2-month-old daughter and me.
Of course, it wouldn't be fair to call out the good doctor on his social blunder without scrutinizing my own actions and habits for fault. If you're going to be critical of others, at least learn the lesson that you're accusing them of missing. An over-analyzer like me has to choose to use those powers for good rather than for evil.
The incident did open my eyes to a small fact that seems obvious, but perhaps, I have never appreciated it before: Whatever I say or do is
judged in the context of my cultural background. If I make a statement that has the potential for being misunderstood, my physical attributes, such as my sex and my race, will very possibly play a part in how other people reach their interpretation of my message.
The second moral of the story deals with accountability: The higher you are in the social food chain, the fewer people you have to answer to, right? Sometimes it's hard to remember where your expertise ends and your personal opinion begins. When someone does seek your counsel, at least offer it without judgment.
If you thrive on climbing the ladder of some abstract social hierarchy, remember to be accountable to someone other than yourself, because most people will let themselves down. If you are a person of faith, then be good for God. If you are a person with close family or loved ones, then be good for their sake. If for no other reason, simply be good for goodness sake.
Scott Dennis is Morton, Miss., native who lives in Pearl. Dennis earned a computer science degree from Mississippi College, and works as an IT Specialist with the U.S. Geological Survey. He is blessed with a wonderful wife and a small but growing family.