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One year ago, COVID-19 reached the doors of our emergency departments.
The virus kicked off a whirlwind of chaos that dominated the year — financial challenges, political unrest, increases in incivility. Not to mention the toll the pandemic took on emotional and physical health.
It’s time to take a deep breath and bring our focus back to kindness.
Kindness is an evolutionary trait with survival benefit, says Lynn Cochran, system vice president of operations and Chief Nursing Officer at Edward Hospital. As humans, we are members of social networks or tribes. From the beginning of time, kindness improved opportunity for food, shelter, love.
“Being kind increases the likelihood of having strong social connections, building a family, and creating financial security. Acts of kindness have as much positive impact on the person being kind as the recipient of the kind act,” Cochran says. “Scientists have learned that acts of kindness and compassion activate the same center in the brain as other pleasure activities.”
Research shows being kind also improves your personal health and wellbeing—lowering your blood pressure, reducing emotional stress, and increasing serotonin.
Veronica Perez, a radiology technician at Edward Hospital, recently experienced this connection firsthand.
On a recent winter night, Perez was rushing to the post office to mail something before they closed when she noticed someone who looked like she needed help.
“I was parking and I saw her talking to somebody by the door,” Perez says. “I went inside and saw that she was looking kind of desperate. She approached me in line and asked if she could borrow my phone. She said ‘I need a phone to call my son because I locked my car with my keys, wallet and phone in there.’”
“Everything — my purse, my phone — was in the car,” says Naperville resident Emily Hsu. “I was so upset. I went into the post office to find help.
“I looked for people who were more reachable. I saw Veronica holding a phone, so I told her right away I couldn’t open my car door and she was friendly. She said, ‘Oh sure you can use my phone.’”
Hsu tried calling her son but got no answer. “Veronica said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll help you.’”
Perez called Naperville police to open Hsu’s car, and, as the post office closed, invited her to wait in her warm vehicle for the police to arrive.
“She had to pick up her son and get home, but she decided to take care of me,” Hsu said. “It made me appreciate what she did even more.”
Perez says she had been in that position before and knew how vital an act of kindness would be.
“It could have happened to any of us,” Perez says. “Of course, my job is in helping. I didn’t think twice to help (Hsu). We have a really good group at Edward Hospital, I love my co-workers. We do it every day. We always try to do our best and be kind and respectful to our patients.”
Kindness is powerful. Kindness takes strength. Kindness means putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.
“As healthcare workers, our life work is dedicated to the service of others, providing care with empathy and compassion,” Cochran says. “Connect in a meaningful way with someone. Keep your eyes up and engage with people. Learn people’s names. Smile. These are strategies we’re putting in place at Edward-Elmhurst Health and in our personal lives.”
Lighten someone else’s load. Bring humor into the mix. Empathize.
Commit to the power of kindness and celebrating simple joys. Make 2021 a glass-half-full kind of year. Better yet, three-quarters full.
“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees” (Amelia Earhart).
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