We have been dealing with a scary medical emergency in our family this week. My father-in-law had a subdural hematoma that led to a trip to the hospital and surgery. I am happy to report that he is progressing at a remarkable pace, and we are optimistic that he will make a full recovery.
Extended time spent in a hospital affords you with ample opportunities to witness people acting their best in the face of some of the worst circumstances. I was fortunate to observe and interact with ICU nurses who executed their duties with efficiency and empathy. The neurosurgeon who performed the surgery was skilled and compassionate in equal measure. The surgical liaison who provided us with updates from the operating room started to cry as she saw me cry with relief after finding out the surgery was a success, sharing in a life-changing moment.
When faced with hours upon hours in hospital waiting rooms you also have plenty of time with your thoughts. Given the gravity of the situation it is natural that I found myself reflecting on my father-in-law’s life. In the eighteen years since I first met him, he has become one of my favorite people based on his integrity and his character. He is a retired career Army man who served his country in Vietnam. He is a father and role model to four children and a devoted husband of fifty-eight years. As we sit on opposite sides of the political fence he often enjoys engaging me in rousing debates, but they always end with laughter and a hug.
I can tell you that in the nearly two decades that I have known my father-in-law I have never once heard him complain about his life. I have never heard him deflect responsibility away from himself and onto another. He carries himself with a quiet strength and an abundance of patience. He does not care to be the center of attention, but when he does speak out it is sure to have an impact. He may be great in the eyes of his family, but to most others he is an ordinary guy. In the simplest of terms, he is a good man. I believe we can take a lesson from people like the hospital staff and from people like my husband’s father. Maybe we don’t need to be great. Maybe we just need to be better.
So much of what we see and hear on the news and on social media these days is a massive blame game. People are divesting themselves of any responsibility for their actions without a thought. It can’t possibly be my fault because of racism, the environment, reverse discrimination, profiling, stress, age, gender, the economy, a difficult childhood, the educational system, the weather, the tides, the color of one’s socks, etc. What if we all agreed to step up and make the effort to just be better? Is it so wrong to ask people to be accountable for their own choices and their own actions?
I issued myself a challenge five years ago to be a better person. I am one now, though I still have much progress to be made. Today I am re-issuing that challenge to myself, and I am implementing the mantra to “just be better”. I will not allow myself to shift or deflect blame, and I will take full responsibility for me. I will continue working on being better to those around me and to those I have yet to meet.
I ask you to join me on this quest to “just be better”. We can lead by example and pass the message on to others. We can show people to be proud by being good and by doing good. We can just be better.