Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Moral guide

Everyone I run into at the hospital wants to talk about Rose. I guess if you have been around a hospital as a nurse and volunteer for 50 years and live to be 101 years old, you have an impact on lots of people!

Today, Dr. Lachlan Forrow and I were at the front door waiting to share a cab downtown and we started talking about Rose. Lachlan has been head of our ethics program for years and also runs our palliative care service.

(More importantly, his daughter is a very good player in our town's soccer program, and I referee her games from time to time. In fact, Lachlan and I first met when I ordered him away from the goal area during a game. He was busy photographing his daughter's team from behind the goal line, and I told him he was distracting the girls and asked him to move over to the sidelines with the other parents. He complied. He had to. In contrast, as a faculty member in our hospital, he has much more freedom in choosing to comply or not with my requests. But I diverge from today's point!)

Today, Lachlan said something about Rose along the lines of her being the kind of person who, when you do something in a patient setting that you feel really good about, you think that she would have been pleased. From there we went to the broader topic of how many of us have a person like that in our lives: When we are in a tense, pressured, or difficult situation and have to make the right moral choice, our actions are often influenced by how someone we admire would have hoped that we would behave.

The concept goes beyond having a mentor. It is having someone who serves as a standard against whom we judge our own behavior during a moral test. The person can be alive or long gone. But at that moment of truth, he or she is standing over your shoulder watching and judging. (This is distinct, although perhaps additive to, the kind of conscience pricking that comes from religious beliefs.)

What do you think? Do you have a private moral guide in the person of someone alive or dead whose opinion you value during those tough moments?

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I usually go by the following: Will I regret whatever I'm about to do (or not do) 5 years from now, and will it pass the Mom sniff test:)

Christian Sinclair, MD said...

I very often think of my friend Lee (still alive) when faced with difficult decisions. Luckily I get to talk to him a couple times a month, so he acts as a great sounding board, and I do the same for him.

Anonymous said...

Years ago one of my best friends from college was diagnosed with cancer of the thymus (rare: he died a few years later). In one book he was reading he found the following Schweitzer quote from a sermon he gave when he was 29 years old:

“The older we grow, the more we realize that true power and happiness come to us only from those who spiritually mean something to us. Whether they are near or far, still alive or dead, we need them if we are to find our way through life. The good we bear within us can be turned into life and action only when they are near to us in spirit.”

Anonymous said...

It is different people depending on the issue at hand. Sometimes it's my husband, other times my girlfriends, almost always God. But many times, I also ask myself if someone were writing an article about me, what would the inclusion of that particular deed or decision say about me?

clifford craig, M.D. said...

i would refer you to the following website:johnubacon.com. listen to the 2 you tube videos about his book "Bo's Lasting Lessons" on bo schembechler former michigan coach. Bo has been my moral compass since about 1978, although i never actually met him and he died last year. he has been and continues to be a moral compass for a generation of michigan football players, fans and alumni.

margalit said...

I am extremely fortunate to have a "Rose" in my life. Only mine is named Jean. She lives in our town, Paul, and is one of the most amazing women I've ever met. I met her through the Visiting Mom's program sponsored by JFCS when my twins were born. She was a volunteer there for many years, but now has chosen to concentrate on only 3 (yes THREE) different volunteer activities per week: the public library, the Mason Rice library, and Early Intervention. She was introduced to EI when my kids were infants and my daughter was accepted into the program. Since that time, 15 years ago, Jean has volunteered there.

She is one of the kindest, most generous beings on earth. She will do anything to help her friends, she's always up on local politics and can be counted on for a ride to the polls. She has many many friends here, even though she spent the first 70 years of her life in Westchester County. Oh, didn't I mention that Jean is 84 years old?

She's a grandmother, a mother to 3, a widow of many years, and yet she has time to help so many other people, to enjoy the resources of our community, to be active in our city's future, and to be a moral compass for me and my family. Whenever I have an issue that I need help with, it's Jean I turn to, because I know that morally she'll be the best guidance that I can find.

I just wish she could get the nachas from the city that she so richly deserves.

mosscomm said...

I have found daily meditation to be a great and profound way to get in touch with my own moral compass. Deep down, many of us know what is "right" if we take the time to pause and take a protected time to reflect.

My conviction and passion about the power of meditation led me to co-author and publish a recently-released book of reflections that can prod us to check in with our own moral compasses. The book, Healing with Heart: Inspirations for Health Care Professionals, is based on weekly emails that my co-author, Martin Helldorfer, the SVP, Mission at Exempla Healthcare has been sending to Exempla Healthcare employees over the past six years. Since Healing with Heart's release in June of this year, it has been met with a great deal of enthusiasm. Perhaps it will inspire you or someone you know. You can find out more at: www.mosscommunications.net

Anna said...

Whenever I'm cleaning a room for company, or dressing myself for an interview, or in general trying to play the part of a Tidy Adult (instead of who I am the rest of the time), I see it through my mother's eyes. One second is all it takes before smears on the counter jump out, the window is dirty, and my shoes don't match my pants.

This makes her sound nitpicky. She's not, anymore. But I grew up unheedful of schmutz and lint, and she constantly straightened and cleaned.

When someone near me is distraught and I am feeling selfish and scared and don't know how to comfort them, I put my friend Erica in my head, which does the trick...

I'm Anna, by the way, and my dad (Mark L.) plays soccer with you!)

Paul Levy said...

Thanks, Anna, and all others, too.