Monday, August 15, 2016

Destroying People with Social Media

I have a confession. I really do like social media. I have reconnected with an untold number of friends since I entered Facebook world in 2009.  Friends I had not seen in nearly 40 years have become near and dear once again.  It’s also a great way to keep up with my cousins who live all over the country.  And I even get to keep up with my wife’s aunts! They are too cool. Social media has afforded such wonderful blessings.

But…social media can be destructive too. I feel compelled to speak into one particular way that I have seen a great tool of communication used in an overtly harmful way.  When a person or family is facing a crisis event, it’s time to flash a bright yellow caution light in regard to your use of social media.  Allow me to cite a few examples:

In recent years, I have been called to assist law enforcement officers with fatality car crashes where the victim’s family has shown up on the scene. The family arrived because someone sent them a snap-chat that says something like this: “I saw a red car that looks like your wife’s car. Could this be her car? It was involved in a really bad crash!” Or…someone posts a picture on Facebook or Twitter or lnstagram accompanied by a post that says something like this: “I just passed by this awful crash.” The victim’s family sees the post and accompanying picture before we can notify them in a proper way.

Here is another way that social media can be destructive during a crisis event. A person is in the hospital. That individual’s friends take it upon themselves to post details about the patient’s health status.  There are several problems with such a choice. Does the family want that information posted?  Is the information you are sharing accurate?  I have a friend hospitalized right now being cared for by hospice. Well-meaning friends posted that she died.  She has not died. Can you imagine how her family felt when they read the misinformation being posted with no regard for the truth being considered?

When a family has a loved one in the hospital that is critically ill, people will “inbox” them and ask: “has he passed yet?”  I am serious. I could not possibly make this stuff up.

Here are a few good social media rules in times of crisis:

·       Don’t post anything about someone who is hospitalized until you have secured permission from the patient or their family.

·       NEVER, ever post pics of an accident scene.  There is NO good reason to do that. It is sickening to be working at a serious crash scene and watch gawkers using their video app as they drive by. Grow up.

·       If you are going to contact a family member of someone seriously ill, ask them what you can bring for dinner. DON’T ask them if their loved one has passed away.

·       Think about what you are posting. Consider who will see it. Is it in good taste? Is your post helpful or is it just your way of spreading half-truths about someone else’s misfortune?

Let’s be supportive of each other. Let’s practice kindness and empathy. And most of all, let’s be respectful and considerate. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Inspired by a Cheerleader

When I was in high school, the cheerleaders were the most popular girls in our class. They were the attractive girls that dated the quarterback and the wide receivers. They inspired us at weekly pep rallies before the Friday night games.  I have never really thought of cheerleaders out of that context. That changed today.

Today, I went to visit a young lady in her early 20’s at the hospital. She is critically ill following a tragic accident. She was a cheerleader at our local high school several years ago.  She was in school with two of my boys.  She participated in youth group activities at church during that time period. But today, things are very different.

Not long after I arrived one of the current cheerleaders from the same high school showed up with a bouquet of flowers arranged in school colors.  She was eager to present the flowers and expressed a desire to pray for the young woman that led cheers just like her a few years ago…She just struck me as a genuinely sweet girl.

Visiting the seriously ill is an integral part of my job. It’s not a task to be taken carelessly. Being in a hospital room with a patient and their loved ones is equivalent to standing on sacred ground. It’s a time to hug. And it’s a time to hush. It’s certainly a time to listen carefully. Offering extensive commentary is unnecessary and destructive. And when we are find ourselves at a loss for words, perhaps we are normal….

So…back to the cheerleader that came to visit. She had the best of intentions. But I don’t think she was prepared to pray with someone that ill. The experience is not what you see on television. It’s the real world. How could she not be somewhat shocked? Thankfully such encounters are not all that common to most 16 year old’s. She teared up and said: “I don’t know what to say…” The sincerity of her tender heart touched me to the very core of my being.

If the truth be known, nobody knows what to say in such circumstances.  But unfortunately many will start offering some kind of rambling commentary sprinkled with references to leaning on God.  The damage done by unnecessary words is indescribable. And of course we want to shed some tears, but the desire to be strong trumps the emotion that wells up in us.

 The cheerleader that chose to step away from the comfort of the pep rally and step into the uncharted territory of a palliative care hospital room is my hero. She intuitively understood the gravity of the situation and responded accordingly. The sincerity of her heart revealed by her honest words and heartfelt tears inspired me. She honestly admitted being at a loss for words.  Honesty and humility are a good combination when it comes to serving the needs of others.  I don’t know what she has in mind for the future, but I am behind her. I am confident that she will do something substantive with her life. I was inspired by a cheerleader today, but it wasn’t at a pep rally…

Saturday, August 6, 2016

We See You: Back the Blue Part I

We see you.  We grasp the courage you have to go where others will not.  The courage to face unspeakable darkness. The willingness to step into the unknown. The capacity to see and smell things that most people prefer not to discuss.  We see you. Thank you for your courage.

We see you. You are our protectors. You protect us from evil. You protect us from our own poor choices. You protect us when our bodies are injured and when our health fails us. You protect our property when it is threatened by fire.  We see you.

We see you. You serve. You serve in the extreme cold and when the heat is unbearable. You serve us when we face tragedy. You serve us when we are not eager recipients. You serve us when we overwhelmed with fear. You serve us when our property has been damaged or stolen. You serve us in the terrifying moment of finding out a loved one has lost their life. You serve selflessly. We see you. Thank you for your service.

We see you. You are people of honor. When citizens of our own community are rude, belligerent, and unhelpful, you are individuals of honor. When a person tells you in a restaurant that your meal break represents their tax dollars at work, you reflect an attitude of honor. When an intoxicated person screams obscenities at you as you attempt to treat their medical needs, you are a person of honor. We see you. And we choose to honor you today.

We see you. You choose to help those in need every single day. You help by purchasing meals for those that are desperate out of your own pocket. You help those that are helpless with countless lift assists every year. You help the stranded motorist. You help people who know their loved one has drowned in one of the bodies of water in our county. You help during the daylight hours and you help others when most of our asleep.  We see you. We are grateful for your help.

We see you. You are generous. Generous with your time. You volunteer to go save someone’s else home from destruction. You are generous with your skills. You are generous with your encouragement when you take time to talk to small children that are fascinated with your profession. You are generous with each other. Covering each other whenever needed and however needed. We see you. Your generosity has not gone unnoticed.

We see you. You choose sacrifice every day. You sacrifice your own personal safety for the well-being of Hood County 24/7, 365 days a year. You sacrifice time with your family when the rest of us are eating Thanksgiving Dinner or having Christmas with our families. You sacrifice sleep to go on a medical call or to respond to an injury accident. Your entire life is wrapped up in sacrifice. We don’t always comprehend what sacrifice looks like for you, but nevertheless we see you. You are sacrificial. 

We Don't See You: Back the Blue Part II

We don’t see you.  You are hidden in a dark dungeon on sunny days while others are out playing and taking in a few rays. When their fun becomes tragic, you are the first one to comfort, guide, and instruct. But we don’t see you doing that. You are hidden.

We don’t see you. A woman’s husband is coming after her in a drunken rage. You strive to calm her as you tell her where to safely hide while she waits for officers to arrive. And when you disconnect with her, you worry about her welfare. The woman is rescued. Her neighbors watch her as her husband in placed in the back of a patrol unit.  But no one sees that you set all of that into motion.

We don’t see you. Multiple fire units, EMS personnel, and law enforcement officers converge on a home that is fully involved. Flames are visible and the smoke can be seen for miles. Somehow firefighters stationed all over the county arrived to do their part. Such careful coordination was not an accident. You toned them. You acknowledged the departure and arrival of every single apparatus.  And in some cases, you toned a second time. And when the structure is saved, we failed to see what you contributed to that valiant effort. 

We don’t see you. We don’t see you multitasking. You are running driver’s licenses and plates, talking on the radio, talking on the phone, helping a co-worker, checking the status of officers out on a serious call, and occasionally taking a restroom break in the midst of it all. But even those you are serving fail to see what they experience looks like.

We don’t see you. We don’t see you experiencing the emotion that comes from communicating with distraught, hurting, and overwhelmed citizens. You are the first one to hear the bad news but often the last one to be made aware of the outcome of the call. We don’t see you.  We are out in the field working and we fail to remember that you are hurting behind the door that leads to the dungeon.

We don’t see you. You are our dispatchers. You answer 911. You dispatch police officers and do your best to guard their safety. You send EMS to every imaginable medical emergency and coach the citizens they plan to serve until they make scene. You send firefighters to lift assists and to tragic car crashes. And you do it all behind closed doors…

We don’t see you, but we acknowledge your service. We appreciate your attention to our safety. We are grateful for your multitasking skills that far out distance what any of us could do!  Your compassionate spirit to the desperate reminds us to act likewise. You are hidden away serving with no fanfare.  Such a task is reserved for the most humble among us. Thank you for what you do. Thank you for who you are.  We appreciate you and we love you. May God bless our dispatchers.