Wednesday, October 03, 2012
Monday, March 05, 2012
A recent Gallup poll of 1,012 adults rates the honesty and ethics of 21 professions. Clergy ranked sixth behind Nurses (84%), Pharmacists (73%), Medical Doctors (70%), High School Teachers (64%) and Police Officers (54%) but we rabbis, pastors and priests have nothing to gloat about. This same poll ten years ago had 64% of the folk giving high-marks to clergy. This year we got only 52%. That’s not even passing! We’re still rated above Lobbyists and Politicians who tied for the lowest mark at 7% but who wants to brag about that?
I suppose we could blame it on a problematic few but I have a hunch that even without the pedophiles in priests’ clothing , our popularity would still be shrinking. We’re the ones, after all, who continually set ourselves up and then let everyone else down.
In any case, I’m all for trusting nurses above everyone else. As someone who has spent a great deal of time visiting in hospitals, my admiration for the nursing profession only grows broader and deeper. These are the men and women on the front lines of health care. Countless times I have had the privilege of witnessing the healing power of the dedicated nurse. When, understandably, a doctor can spend but a few minutes with a patient, it is the nursing staff that provides the therapeutic power of simply being present…monitoring vital signs, administering pharmaceuticals and emptying bedpans. But also developing relationships, offering a listening ear, comforting a frightened soul as well… these are the reasons why anyone who has spent any time in a hospital would concur with the 840 people who told Mr. Gallup just who they thought were the most trustworthy folk of all.
I suspect the 7 interviewees that rated politicians as paramount in honesty and ethics all have a cousin running in some election. And the seven others who thought lobbyists were worthy of our respect probably are getting fat checks from either oil spillers or gas guzzlers. Even before the Occupy Movement made headlines most of us in the 99% were rethinking this whole notion of trickle-down economics. We’ve come to realize it’s not even a slow drip.
I’ve tried to find where kindergartners rank on this year’s list but it appears they didn’t make the cut. I suspect this reflects more the failings of the pollsters than the kids. This is entirely anecdotal but my experience with 5 and 6 year-olds would have me placing them right up there with the nurses.
For many years, I had the privilege of meeting with 20 or so kindergartners every Friday morning. We would spend our time catching up on each other’s lives and reading a story or two. If what we are judging here is honesty and ethical behavior, you’d have to go a long way to find more ethically and honest folk than these little people. For instance, not too long ago I was caught off guard when, in the midst of what I thought was a most entertaining story, one of the kids confessed that he had a better story to tell. Against my better judgment, I invited the tyke to tell his tale.
With surprising aplomb, the boy launched into a detailed description of a less than joyous discussion between Mommy and Daddy that occurred the night before. The kids and I sat in rapt attention as the boy graphically represented both the language and body language from the previous night’s drama. Because I am a clergyman whose honesty and ethics are on the decline, I hesitated before stopping the story from continuing. In that pause, my young storyteller reached his conclusion and we all discovered that the Tuesday Night Fights ended with giggles from the bedroom. Soon all the little honest and ethical kindergartners were sharing similar stories.
I could certainly tell you more but then next year we clergy might be listed behind the lobbyists.
Friday, February 10, 2012
“May I have a name, please?” the kind young woman asked as she finished relaying my tall latte order to her co-worker.
In the nanosecond or two that bridged the gap between her question and my response, a strange and potent power seemed to make its presence known deep within the gaps of my psyche. Here was my chance, I surmised, to change my identity. I could, with the ease of unchallenged conversation, simply become someone other than myself.
For instance, I might stare deeply into her rather unresponsive hazel eyes and say, “They call me Steel” and see if such nomenclature might buckle her probably aching knees. Or, if I was feeling a need to convince myself and any overhearing others that I possess intellectual powers now abundantly lacking, I might respond to her innocent request by squinting more than a little, push the bridge of my glasses higher up on my formidable nose and say, “Albert” or, “Leonardo”, if I’m feeling that bold.
My mother once mentioned that I bore a striking resemblance to Paul Newman or maybe it was Danny DeVito. No matter. Now was my chance to try on either for size. Actually, I have for many years now spent too much time wondering what it would be like to have a book on the bestseller list. I could say “John” (as in Grisham) or “Chicken” (as in Soup).
Isn’t this fun? OK maybe fun isn’t exactly the right word but surely you can see the myriad of possibilities that present themselves. You call the restaurant to make your reservation but instead of something as prosaic as Jones or Smith or Mayfield, we get to say, “Ferrari” or “Gates” or maybe “Eli Manning” if you’re feeling really cheeky. I’ll bet the table waiting for you won’t be by the bathroom door.
I probably shouldn’t admit this but, just between you and me, I sometimes am not completely honest when someone asks what it is I did before I retired. Like changing my name, I have been tempted not to fully reveal my former professional status to strangers. Over the years I have found such a pronouncement can, and very quickly, end conversation and put dampers on any fun. Once on a chairlift, I was, most hospitably, offered a toke on my seat-partner’s marijuana joint. My smiling declination did not prevent him from sharing two-thirds of his life story by the time we were half way up the lift. As we hit the mid-point, he inquired as to my profession. Honestly I told him and, honestly, he never said another word.
Another time, on a two and a half hour flight to California, the fellow sitting next to me offered me something very different than my acquaintance on the lift. This guy gave me nothing more than a big smile. But then he opened up a Bible and began to feverishly take notes, underlining whole chapters. He would frequently turn toward me in a not too subtle invitation to conversation. I buried myself in my book and pretended not to notice his very public piety. Had he asked I would, without question, have told him anything but the truth. I’m nauseous enough when I fly.
“Pierre”, I could say with one raised eyebrow, hinting of exotic locales. “Igor” I could grunt and experience, if only momentarily, what it might be like to be an intimidator rather than always the intimidatee.
My dad had the wonderful name “Max”, although I never appreciated it when I was a kid. I wanted an old man with a moniker like “Joe” or “Bud”. “Max” always seemed more mousy than macho. People named their dogs “Max” not their people. Only now that he’s gone I miss hearing his name. So here was my chance to honor his memory. Should I take it?
I once knew a man named “Caroll”. Johnny Cash knew a boy named “Sue”. I have a male friend named, “Joy”. Would it be too shocking to tell her my name was “Charlotte”? Would the laugh be worth the embarrassment of innocently shouting out “Margaret”?
The possibilities are many, the risks reasonably few. Here was my chance, at least for the moment, to alter my past, leave my mistakes behind and start completely anew.
I bit my lower lip and took a deep breath.
“Rich”, I said.