Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Walking in their Crocs

I WAS REMINDED of the simple but significant truth that you don’t know what don’t know, and how that can lead to all sorts of unnecessary difficulty, on a recent visit to the ER with my wife. She had taken a tumble while out electric scootering with one of our grandsons, arriving home with some serious road rash, a big cut on her forehead and nursing her left arm. “I think it might be broken,” she said quietly.

It was a slow afternoon at the hospital, thankfully, so we got checked in pretty quickly. Paperwork done, Marcia was led over to a small triage room by a nurse. I followed, and the nurse said I needed to be six feet away for COVID-19 protocols, so I stepped back. Then it occurred to me that my wife had taken a pretty strong bang to the head, and also has a tendency to downplay things, not wanting to be a bother. So, I went back to the doorway of the office to listen in to what was being said.

The nurse was pretty sniffy, asking me what I was doing. I explained, and she said I needed to go and sit over in one of the chairs in the waiting room. I told her I didn’t want to do that because I needed to hear what was going on. She got sniffier and closed the door.

I wasn’t going to get myself kicked out of the place by opening the door and having her call for security, but I sure wasn’t going to go and sit down, so I just stood outside the door and waited.

After a few minutes, Marcia got up and came out. When we went over and sat down to wait to be admitted to an ER room to see the doctor, she told me the admitting nurse had repeatedly asked her if she felt safe.

Then I realized: I’d brought my wife to the ER with a head wound (it needed stitches), abrasions and an apparently (and subsequently x-ray-confirmed) broken limb and there I was hovering around intently. The nurse hadn’t been trying to be a jerk, she was following procedures in checking whether this was a domestic abuse situation. Suddenly her apparent unreasonableness made perfect sense. My annoyance turned to appreciation.

How many times do we do this kind of thing, witness or experience something and make a hasty judgment call on attitudes and intentions?

I’ve written before about the sociologist who studied gangs in Chicago and was initially unimpressed by the young mothers who let their kids urinate in the elevators and stairwells of their rundown apartment blocks. Only after he had been with them for some time did he come to realize they did that because it kept the drug dealers away. What he saw as poor mothering was actually an attempt at good mothering.

If we were all a little slower to jump to conclusions, we might avoid a lot of unnecessary stress and conflict. People usually have good reasons for what they do, even if those actions may not make much sense to us without understanding more of their world.

If I’d walked a mile in that ER nurse’s Crocs, I would probably have been happy to go and sit down and wait.

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