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.

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