The Other

I am just about as white girl as a white girl can get.  I grew up in suburbs where everybody's parents went to college and they were either in real estate or engineering.  I live in a suburb where everybody is white and we all put on white button down shirts to go to work.  Everybody except me.  I get to put on scrubs and go into the "city".  I get to leave my white world and rub shoulders with a lot of different and really great people.

The issue of diversity and cultural sensitivity has been at the forefront of our national conversation these days.  It has caused me to stop a moment and think about my own perspective on myself, race, and how I treat the 'Other'.  I have to admit that my natural tendency is to clump together with people who look and act like me.  I like things neat, tidy, kind of quiet, and definitely safe.  If it were put to me, I think I would live in a bubble and never venture out.  Dealing with people can be so complicated!

But, thanks to my career path, I have been drawn out of my comfort zone for almost twenty years.  Next to EMTALA, the ER environment in urban areas is the best opportunity for character growth that I can think of.  EMTALA requires us to take care of everybody, no matter what.  Rejoice, clinicians, you don't get to pick who you take care of!  That will grow your soul.  The urban environment has a similar effect.  You get to bump shoulders with all sorts of people that don't live in your neighborhood.  I have taken care of prostitutes, homeless people, drug dealers, and murderers (that's another story).  They have all been black - and white.  I have cared for doctors, lawyers, business owners, and tradespeople.  They have all been white - and black.  I have had the honor of working with Hispanic people, Hmong people, and even some Europeans!

The really great part about working in the ER for this long is that my tendency to judge and put people into my nice, tidy, judgmental boxes has gotten a little smaller.  I have met great people who are working three jobs to care for their kids and they're doing a great job.  I have met some really wealthy people who have made me clench my fists as fast as any drug dealer.  I have learned that there really isn't the 'other'.  This idea that some people are like me and some aren't has changed.  

The people that I really have to thank are my coworkers.  People from all backgrounds who have become my teammates and my friends.  A few years ago, I might have crossed the the other side of the street if I saw some of these people coming my way.  But now, I know them.  I know their names, their kid's names, their stories about work, school, and boyfriend drama.  I know them to be good and kind and temperamental and human.  They're a lot like me.  And then again, they're nothing like me.  But in the ER, we have had to become a 'we'.  I can't work side by side with my African American coworkers and treat them with disrespect or condescension.  I need them.  We have a difficult job to do and it's impossible if it's 'us' versus 'them'.  It has to be 'WE'.  

So in all this discussion about race relations I have become even more grateful for my friends, coworkers, and patients in the ER.  They have challenged my stereotypes and preconceived notions of the 'other'.  They have taught me that when people become 'WE', we can accomplish great things.  

"God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for...I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality..." 
Acts 10:28b, 29,34 NASB