A Better Part of Ourselves (posted August 7, 2010)

Babemba PeopleThere is a tribe in South Africa with a grasp on something that we in this country, and much of the world for that matter, have lost sight of: looking for what’s right. I discovered them through Christina Baldwin’s Storyteller. “I have read the story of the Babemba tribe in which a person doing something wrong, something that destroys this delicate social net, brings all work in the village to a halt. The people gather around the ‘offender,’ and one by one they begin to recite everything he has done RIGHT in his life: every good deed, thoughtful behavior, act of social responsibility. These things have to be true about the person, and spoken honestly, but the time-honored consequence of misbehavior is to appreciate that person back into the better part of himself.” To “appreciate a that person back into the BETTER PART of himself.” What a delightful departure from most of humankind’s response to someone doing something wrong. My days as a healthcare junkie are filled with responses to the life-changing actions of a system whose mission it is to bring people to a healthier part of themselves. When we fail, when we let them down, there is often a quest for who to blame. No question that accountability in medicine, and in life for that matter, is necessary. What is so curious to me is how quickly the default position goes to fault and blame. Does it somehow ease the pain. I don’t think it really does. To this day I don’t understand how a dollar really serves to reduce “pain and suffering.” It is a legal myth. It is our world though. It is a symptom of a society whose focus is more on managing risk than living life. What if people blow it? What would happen if instead of calling them into the proverbial principal’s office, we called them in to bring up all they have done right? Would people be less paranoid about trying to do the right thing? What if we looked at the whole person and what they bring to the planet and our work and not just what they missed? I wonder if our perspective on the world would change. What if we assumed – just for the Hell of it – for a moment that greed wasn’t at the center of corporate America; or personal America, for that matter? I think there are a bunch of us out there who believe that understanding and giving people the benefit of the doubt are good alternatives. This world is tough. For those of us in this country, this experiment of Democracy, we have a chance to believe and even live a dream. Right now the dream has too many elements of a nightmare. This isn’t created by a party or a man. Let’s dream from a place of what is right. Let’s find out how to bring people back into a better part of themselves.


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