Sunday, July 21, 2019

Walk a Mile in their Shoes - Lessons from a Backyard Rodent

“He ate my dahlia!” exclaimed the lady of the house. 

Our backyard is a menagerie.  We are often perched at the window gazing at birds hovering over our feeders, raccoons climbing tall trees, ground hogs, possum, wild turkey, deer, a red tail hawk, a seemingly misplaced spring peeper, stray cats and scampering squirrels and chipmunks.

And, the lady was correct.  A chipmunk, who seems to know our property as well as a trained surveyor, hopped into the newly created dahlia flower pot and enjoyed a colorful repast.  As of this writing, there is one remaining, lone dahlia, which might be on his menu later for dinner or a midnight snack.

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

I will take issue, ever so gently, that the resourceful rodent ate ‘our’ dahlia.  I suspect that readers have uttered or heard similar phrases, such as 'the deer ate our flowers!'  Let’s consider the issue from the animal's points of view.  
  • The land that we claim title to is their home.  So, for starters, there is a property dispute.
  • They and their descendants were there long before we were.  Perhaps, they have a home invasion argument?
  • They are seeking food and shelter in accordance with their needs and instincts on their home turf. How would we react if a higher power summarily banned us from all supermarkets and restaurants?
  • They have to contend with human interlopers placing various repellents, barriers and obstacles impeding safe passage to their food supply. 
So, is the hungry little chipmunk a perpetrator or a victim?   Now, don’t get your acorns all riled up over this.  I’m trying to make a point.  It’s a matter of perspective.  Issues, arguments and positions can appear radically different if considered from another viewpoint.   Being mindful of this, I think, allows for a much more fruitful dialogue.  Which of the following examples do you think is more likely to lead to a constructive outcome.

“I’m right and you’re wrong.  You’re just like your mother!”

“Wow, I never really thought of it that way before...”

Issues of perspective affect all of us, in our professions and occupations and in our lives.  Here’s a few hypothetical but plausible scenarios in the medical world where there might be another legitimate point of view to be considered than the one expressed.  
  • A doctor mentions to his staff, “…that last patient was demanding.”
  • A patient develops a wound infection after surgery and complains that ‘something messed up’. 
  • A patient states that the staff was rude when she was told she would need to reschedule after arriving 30 minutes late for a routine office visit.
  • A patient’s family claim that a physician years ago missed a diagnosis.
  • A doctor complains that a hospital nurse took too long to call him back.
  • A patient files a complaint with hospital administration because the Emergency Department physician would not refill his pain medicines and he left in severe pain. 
  • The doctors are pressuring us to ‘pull the plug’. 
So, whose side are you on, the lady’s or the chipmunk’s?

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