Steppin in someone else's shoes

 

 

People often use phrases such as, “You can’t understand until you have walked a mile in their shoes” and “Before you judge, step into her shoes.” These sayings were likely derived from the phrase “step into someone’s shoes,” which means to take on a particular role that someone else has been doing.

 

In this case, it means to live the other person’s life or to connect with them in a way that you truly understand what has been going on in their life. The idea is to be empathetic to the person. This is never as easy as one might make it out to be because no two people’s experience is the same.

 

Differences

 

Two people that have lost a partner may react differently to that loss. One person may have died suddenly, while another died after years of illness. These two situations are very different. The partner will grieve in both cases, but in the case of the person who dies after a long illness, much of the grieving may have occurred before the actual death.

 

Even two people that are going through very similar losses will grieve differently. One person may grieve over a couple of months while another one may grieve for a year. Additionally, people’s grieving may take different forms. One person may need to surround themselves with friends and family. They may talk a lot about the person that has passed. The other person may grieve very privately needing space and alone time.

 

Empathy

 

Thus, when we put ourselves in their shoes, it is not good enough to have general empathy for the person. It is important to take it a step further. We must listen and try to understand what that person specifically is going through. Additionally, we must be extremely careful not to put our experiences or beliefs on others.

 

For example, if a person has had a loss and grieved deeply and inwardly for months, they shouldn’t believe that they are showing empathy for someone else if they encourage them to be alone and out of the social network. If they do and the other person is the type of person that needs to be out with friends to heal, they are not showing empathy at all despite their good intentions.

 

Truly In The Person’s Shoes

 

This example can be extrapolated to infinite scenarios. It is important to allow people to speak for themselves and express what they are going through. Then, people can support them in their situation. People should not, however, assume they understand what any specific individual or group is going through.

 

 

This is why it is important to give individuals and groups a voice rather than speaking for them. Even when people try to advocate for others with the absolute best of intentions, they are bound to get it wrong. They are advocating a story that they have created rather than the real story. Sometimes those stories overlap considerably; sometimes they don’t.

 

It is only by listening to others and their personal journey that we can have true empathy for them. Attempts at empathy are better than none, but does not stand up to true empathy, which is gained only by connecting to the person and their story.

 

make an offer

 

In our previous article “Garage Sale Connections,” we discussed various kinds of garage sale shoppers. In this article, we will explore our experience having a garage sale where we asked shoppers to make an offer on items.

 

The Rules

 

For our “Make an Offer” sale, people selected the items that they wanted and then made an offer for the items. We reserved the right to counter-offer if the offer was too low. And, we jokingly included in the fine print that people making ridiculously low offers would be fed to the neighbor’s pet alligator.

 

The sale had mixed results. Some people loved that they could make an offer. I believe they ended up buying more because items didn’t have a fixed price. Also, negotiations over the price seemed to serve to create a stronger connection as they often told us about what they were going to do with the items or why they wanted a lower price.

 

There were people, however, that really struggled with the idea of making an offer. Some of them didn’t know how to price the items, but others just couldn’t seem to comprehend the concept.

 

Culturally, Euro-Americans seemed to grasp the concept and be okay with it more than people from other cultures. People from cultures that like to barter seem to be thrown off by this approach, as they didn’t have a starting point. They didn’t know how to go about making a bid for the items. Plus, I sensed a reluctance to make a connection, which is really beneficial in this type of sale.

 

The Most Challenging Issue

 

The most challenging issue was language. When English was not the person’s first language or they spoke little or no English, explaining the concept just wasn’t possible most of the time. In those cases, we resorted to setting a price as that was the only way to make a sale.

 

We also set the price for children as they had no idea what to offer for something. Children always get good deals and generally speaking they are our favorite customers. A big portion of this is that they are the most open to making a connection.

 

Overall, I think we made as many connections or more with people doing the sale in this manner. Monetarily, things averaged out about the same as if we had priced the items. Some offered slightly more than we would have asked while others offered slightly less. There were a few cases where the offer was low enough that we counter offered and we were able to reach a deal in most of those cases.

 

Feed Them To The Alligator

 

We had only one case where we needed to feed a couple to the alligator. Each of them made offers that were just completely ridiculous. The man offered $4 for a nice cased dartboard and a set of very nice unique goblets. The wife offered something equally ridiculous for some other items. I explained the value of the items to them and they played innocent. The man said, “Well, I didn’t know. I just liked them.” Well, you don’t have to know a lot to know that those items are worth more than his offer. These are the type of people that are looking not just for a deal, but really to take advantage of you. They are not people with whom you want to make a connection because that makes you vulnerable to their actions.

 

In contrast to this couple, we had one gentleman carefully picked out some silk flowers. We found it unusual for an older gentleman to be selecting flowers with such care. In our discussion with him after the sale, we learned that he was buying the flowers to place them at the gravesites of his wife and daughter. His story brought tears to our eyes. So, despite selling the flowers for less than we would have liked, we were very pleased with the sale. We were happy to have made the connection for a brief time and happy to know that the flowers were going to honor two people he so obviously loved.

 

Bottom line . . . Connections can be found anywhere – even garage sales!

 

 

 

old enough

 

 

The federal government has age limits on specific positions. For instance, a person must be at least 25 to be an US Representative, 30 to be an US Senator, and 35 to be President.

 

Age Minimums

 

All states impose minimum ages for at least some of the key local and state government positions. However, the age minimums vary greatly from state to state.

 

The craziest of all laws regarding public service that I have seen are in Vermont. In that state, a person must be a voter to be a town official. Thus, effectively mandating a minimum age of 18 to be mayor of even the smallest town.

 

Governor At 14?

 

However, in Vermont there are no age limits for any key positions at the state level. Thus, anyone who has lived in the state for 4 years (a state requirement) can run for governor. In 2018, Ethan Sonneborn, who was 14 at the time, sought the nomination for the Democrat candidate for governor. He did not get the nomination, but he was qualified serve despite not having reached the age of majority.

 

As a 14-year-old, Ethan was not old enough to vote, drive a car, get a tattoo without his parent’s permission, smoke tobacco, drink alcohol, or possess a handgun. However, he was old enough to stay at home alone, possess a rifle or a shotgun, and be governor.

 

I seriously doubt that the founders of Vermont intended for the governor to be a teenager. However, no one in the nearly 230-year history of the state has ever bothered to change the age for governor. Perhaps no one paid attention before or connected the lack of an age specification to the potential contradiction and issues that arise if a teenager were to become governor.

 

Issues

 

Issues would arise due to requirements to attend school until age 16. Even with home schooling, there would be labor issues as child labor laws in Vermont restrict how much and when teenagers can work.

 

This leads me to the most obvious concern. How can a 14-year-old sign a bill into law when they are not old enough to sign a contract?

 

I suspect that if a teenager ever won the governorship, there would be lots of sudden “Ahha’s” and laws would be quickly changed.

 

 

connecting to students

 

 

When I was in high school, I was lucky to have a young math teacher who loved math, loved teaching, and was very dedicated to his job. He was exceptional and it showed in the results at math competitions. We competed at several competitions each year, including one large competition where 60 or more schools competed.

 

The school’s success was reflected in the comments of students and faculty from other schools. On multiple occasions students from other schools made comments, such as, “I was hoping you guys wouldn’t be here” or simply shook their head and said, “Oh, no!” I remember one time when someone asked me how kids from my school were so good at math. I simply pointed to our teacher.

 

After All These Years

 

Years later when several people in my class connected on Facebook, math and this particular teacher came up in discussion. Everyone remembered him well. He wasn’t the easiest teacher. He gave plenty of homework and didn’t let people get away with anything in his class. But, he was remembered and a beloved teacher. I have never heard anyone from my high school speak of any other teacher the same way.

 

Retiring!

 

This month, he is retiring after teaching for 50 years at my high school. He has won many competitions for the school (over 100 first place finishes per fortscott.biz). However, this is a minor contribution to the community compared to his other contributions. Numerous of his students have followed in his footsteps and become math teachers themselves. Other students, like me, majored in math, but went down other career paths. And, others report being successful in college math classes because of their strong math background.

 

Connecting To Students

 

Still, I believe his greatest contribution as a teacher is simply connecting with his students. None of the above accomplishments would have been possible without that connection. It is that connection that has people remembering him so fondly so many years later. Somehow he was able to relate to the students, remain in control, and get kids to understand math – all at the same time.

 

P.S. Happy Retirement, Mr. Shinn!

 

 

 

 

In Part I “Unconnected Healthcare,” we discussed the many disconnections in healthcare today. In this article, we will flip the tables and discuss what the healthcare system would be like if it connected care to the patient at every step.

 

Complete Connection

 

Imagine if you will, a world where healthcare was completely connected to the patient. In this world, the goal would be to provide the  best healthcare at the lowest price possible. This would apply to doctors, hospitals, pharmaceuticals, regulators, and insurance companies.

 

This would greatly change our current system. It would still be a free-enterprise system, but with common goals and a complete twist to the existing priorities. In this world, everyone would all be on the same page trying to address the health of people.

 

Transparency

 

In this system, costs would be transparent.  I recommend a fix-cost system where the cost of the treatment or drug is the same to all people.  For those insured, the insurance plans could be simple. Perhaps the plans could be based on paying a certain percentage or nothing if the item was completely covered. the Those without insurance would simply pay the stated price.  However, a reduce price would apply for certain people with an inability to pay.

 

With information about costs, the doctor and patient could work together to decide on the direction of treatment.  The patient would no longer suddenly being surprised by overwhelming medical bills. Different facilities could charge different amounts, but all the information would be available to everyone. Thus, if a person’s heart surgeon is associated with two hospitals, they could choose the one with the lower cost.

 

Saving Money

 

The insurance company would save money by not attempting to overturn every decision that a doctor made (okay, a bit of an exaggeration). Instead, they would trust the expert who is familiar with the patient’s case to make the best decisions for the patient. The insurance companies would run periodic audits on doctors and healthcare facilities to ensure that they are treating appropriately. This would be a win-win for the doctors and the insurance companies, not to mention the patient.

 

Likewise, hospitals would drive decisions based on doctor’s recommendations for the patient rather than some government goals or regulations. Thus, if the doctor thinks  a woman who has recently given birth needs to stay a couple of extra days, they would make that decision.  No one would need to jump through hoops and hope for approvals to make it happen.

 

Flexibility

 

Additionally, the ability to get medication would be made easier. The total amount available would remain the same, but if you needed medicine two weeks before you ran out, you could get it. The date of the next refill would remain a month or the specified interval after it would have been if you filled it on time. Thus, if the refill is due on the first of the month, it would remain the first of the month for the next refill no matter when you last refilled it. In this case, trust is shown that the patient will use it appropriately. If they do not, they may run out or have other issues, but that is a separate issue that should not be managed by limitations on all patients.

 

Finding Cures

 

Lastly, pharmaceuticals would have incentives to find medicines that cure rather than manage symptoms. They would also be encouraged to look to natural methods and ingredients rather than just focusing on chemical combinations. There would be a focus on limiting side effects.

 

And, companies would not advertise directly to the consumer except in a limited manner for over the counter drugs. This would drastically cut the cost of drugs in two ways. First, the pharmaceuticals would have far smaller advertising budgets. Second, fewer drugs would likely be prescribed since people wouldn’t constantly be told “Ask your doctor if . . . is right for you?”

 

Changing World

 

If all goals were in support of the best quality of care for the patients at the lowest possible cost, many things in the medical world would change. Board of directors would even have a different view on executive salaries. There would no longer be multi-million dollar bonuses to hospital executives that cut cost at the expense of the patients. Instead, patient and staff feedback would drive the business, including bonuses to executives.

 

In a world where all healthcare is connected to the patient, everyone wins!

 

 

 

 

I have been considering what is at the core of the issues that we have with the healthcare industry. One of the issues that comes up over and over again is the lack of connection between patients, doctors, nurses, insurance companies, hospitals, etc.

 

Healthcare roles are complicated and many healthcare workers are overworked. Thus, it is not surprising that many healthcare workers don’t understand a lot about other aspects of healthcare outside their specific role. However, that puts the patient in the position of handling their own healthcare inside a system that is full of flaws.

 

Flaws  In The System

 

The flaws in the system start with the paperwork, where the same information is entered over and over. Then, you talk to a nurse or medical technician, who asks you all the same questions. They may or may not enter it into the computer at that time. Now, enter the doctor who asks at least part of the questions again. (And, they wonder why people have high blood pressure.)

 

It make sense to double check some things or verify things where the answer is unclear. However, it makes a patient wonder why they are filling out the forms. Of course, it is sometimes far easier to ask the patient the question than read their handwriting or find the answer among the general history questions that have nothing to do with the problem at hand.

 

Best Interest In Mind

 

Still, I believe doctors and their staffs generally have the patient’s best interest in mind. They prescribe the treatments, surgery, and medicines that they believe will help the patient. The issue is that they have no idea how much these treatments cost the patient. I would really hate for them to make decisions on treatments based on cost. On the other hand, when there are two viable options, the doctor could choose a less expensive option if they knew the cost.

 

Whose Interest In Mind?

 

Hospitals, on the other hand, appear to be focused solely on making money. Patient care is a statistic to meet a government guideline or rule. They are worried about being penalized and/or meeting requirements that are financially beneficial to them. Often these rules are contradictory and not aligned with providing the best patient case despite that being the supposed goal.

 

The pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies also play a role. The pharmaceutical companies decide what to research and how much to charge for the drugs that they create. Like hospitals, they are about making money, which is not a good thing for the patient. They search for ways to address symptoms rather than cure diseases because they have no incentive to find cures.

 

The pharmacies, along with government regulations, decide when you can get medicine that is prescribed to you. The rules are different for mail pharmacies and local pharmacies. In the case of local pharmacies, often you cannot get your prescription refilled until less than a week before you run out. This is a huge issue for patients when living in rural areas where it is miles to town or when someone travels. It is not uncommon in these situations for the patient to be required to take extraordinary steps to get their medication.

 

Codes, Codes, And More Codes

 

Now, enter the insurance companies whose goal it is to limit expenses. They question everything, but generally speaking the staff questioning the need for treatment has little if any medical training. They know nothing of the patients’ situation outside the “codes” and they don’t trust the expert’s opinion.   Thus, someone completely unconnected to the patient and their situation is attempting to alter or limit the patient’s care.

 

This is a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately, it means lots of time and dollars are wasted arguing about how much money is going to be spent. The patient, in turn, ends up spending time getting it figured out or making sure that someone is figuring it out. In many situations, the prescribed treatment is approved, but at what cost?

 

In Part II “Connected Healthcare,” we will discuss an alternate healthcare system that connects care to the patient at every step.

 

 

When I was young, I believed that I had lived at least one previous life. I am not sure how I drew that conclusion. It was just something I believed. One day I made the mistake of mentioning this belief to the minister’s wife. She informed me straight away that our religion did not believe in reincarnation. Then she immediately turned and walked way.

 

My first thought was “Wow! That was kind of rude.” I had a hard time with the thought that I was not permitted to have my own beliefs. It was a defining moment that created my views on organized religion. I learned that this was a belief that I needed to keep to myself, but I didn’t stop believing.

 

Evidence

 

Had I not held this belief and continued to believe after being scolded, I would have been totally unprepared for the adventures of being the parent of a child that described his past lives in amazing detail. My wife and I learned of his adventures riding horses and how he had been a guard at a castle.

 

However, we were very impressed when around two years of age he gave us accurate directions for getting to McNichols Arena, a local venue for basketball and hockey.   He informed us that he had played hockey there. We had to believe him because how else would a two-year-old know directions to a sports arena.

 

Our other son never told us explicitly of his adventures in previous lifetimes. However, he had a strong affinity towards World War II and fighter jets. He also had a strong interest in the movie “Gone With the Wind” and insisted on watching the entire series, which is quite odd for a young boy. He also knew information that he hadn’t been taught. We didn’t have cable TV at the time, so that wasn’t the source either.

 

Your Beliefs

 

Now, you can believe whatever you wish about these experiences. Perhaps your religion says that past lives cannot occur. Just be aware that not everyone will believe the same way. If you keep your ears and eyes open, you may hear and see things that will challenge that belief. Until then, don’t stop believing! And, so will I.

 

Coming soon – Part II – Healing Past Lives.

 

 

 

The other day, my wife and I were in a Mexican restaurant and I was searching their extensive menu for something different to eat. Not remembering what a chili relleno was, I asked my wife to describe it. She told me the primary ingredients and suggested that I pick something else, which I did.

 

A few days later, Pioneer Woman was on during my lunch break. Ree was making her version of a chili relleno. My wife said, “See that’s a chili relleno” with the caveat that it was being made differently than what you’d get in a Mexican restaurant. It was sufficient, however, to confirm that I made the right choice the other day in choosing something different from the menu.

 

The Center Lane

 

Throughout the years my family members and I have received answers to questions seemingly through synchronicity. One of my earliest memories of this phenomenon occurred when I was young and riding in the backseat of my uncle’s car.

 

My uncle was driving in the center lane of the interstate through Omaha, Nebraska. My brother asked, “What happens if a car in the right lane changes into the center lane at the same time as a car in the left lane changes into the center lane?” As if on cue, two cars ahead of us tried to change into the center lane at the same time. Fortunately, one or both realized this and retreated to their original lanes. My uncle commented, “Well, I guess that answers your question!”

 

Questions And Answers

 

Many of my questions are relatively insignificant, such as the chili relleno example. However, synchronistic answers can come for meaningful questions as well. These answers are often obvious, but can be overlooked if I am not paying attention.

 

The timing of the answers is not predictable. Sometimes the answers come only moments after asking the question, as was the case when my brother asked about the cars changing into the same lane. However, other answers are delayed until later that day or several days later, like the chili relleno question. In other cases, the answer may not come for some time, but it usually sticks out like a sore thumb when it does arrive. Still, it is amazing the frequency the answer appears relatively soon after asking the question.

 

The Chicken Or The Egg

 

I don’t know if the question surfaces in my mind in anticipation of something happening in the future or if the answer comes because the question was asked. Understanding what is at work in the universe in this situation is a great dilemma. Perhaps I am picking up on future events. Thus, I noticed the chili relleno on the menu when I had never thought to ask about it before. Alternatively, it could be that the universe steered me to turn on the TV at just the right time so that I could get the answer to my question.

 

Dare To Ask

 

Regardless, there definitely seems to be a connection to the question being asked and the answer being received. It seems particularly true when those questions are spoken out loud. It is like the universe is listening and waiting to answer questions for anyone who dares to ask.

 

Just think of the wonderful things we could accomplish if everyone started asking questions about how humans could bring peace and unity throughout the world. The universe just might deliver remarkable answers!

 

 

 

A few years ago, I was shopping in a hobby store when I noticed a group of men dressed in suits.  This was highly unusual. A vast majority of people who shop in the store are women and it is a rare occasion that I see anyone dressed up in the store.

 

I spent several minutes watching the men, who appeared to be analyzing the product displays. Finally, I decided to approach the men as I had a burning question on my mind. After one of the gentlemen confirmed that they were indeed analyzing the product displays, I asked, “Why aren’t there any women in the group?”

 

No Women

 

The man replied that there weren’t any women interested in the job.  He said that women didn’t want to move up in the company. Well, I knew that was just a story and was in not in any way based on fact. I was quite sure that lots of women would be interested in the job.

 

I went on to explain to the man that given their clients are probably 90% female. Given that, women should be involved in how they displayed their product. If nothing else, the average height difference between men and women makes a huge difference in the perception of a display.

 

Although the gentleman was polite and listened to my point of view, it was clear that he really wasn’t listening. I stressed to him that they needed to reach women if they wanted to make sales.  I also explained that a woman’s perspective was critical to making that happen. In the end, the conversation was very unsatisfying.  I believed I could redesign the displays to attract more sales in my sleep.

 

Lack of Connection

 

Yet, I was intrigued that the man didn’t seem to care if they connected with their customers. Given the corporation had sent a group of men to do the job, it would appear that the corporation didn’t understand either. I assume that they really did want to sell products, but somehow they got a bit off-track without realizing it.

 

A disconnect or partial-disconnect with customers is a common occurrence. It is actually rare that a business is fully connected with their customers and potential customers. If you find a business that has numerous 5-stars out of 5-stars reviews, it is likely you have found a business fully connected with their customers.

 

Connecting

 

For a majority of your customers to feel connected to your business, the business must attract the right customers. Thus, the business must strive to draw in customers whose needs match the company’s goals. Alternately, the company may choose to define their goals around the needs of a group of potential customers.   To have great success obtaining and maintaining customers, the company can never lose sight of this connection.

 

 

 

 

When you travel, everything generally goes smoothly unless something throws you off schedule. As soon as you miss one connection, it seems that the problem multiplies. It becomes more complicated to reach your destination. You may end up taking more hops and sometimes travel to a city other than your destination and follow that with train, bus, or car travel.

 

Minor Disruptions

 

Sometimes even a minor thunderstorm that lasts only a short time can cause such a disruption if you are flying from a city on the east coast where the skies are often congested. In these situations, if your flight misses its slot, you end up waiting and waiting. Sometimes it is several hours before you are allowed to take off when the storm lasted only fifteen or twenty minutes.

 

When this occurs, you are thrown off schedule. If you have a connecting flight out of another airport, you may find yourself sleeping on the floor waiting for a flight the next day. However, it may also mean that you miss out on sleep or miss a portion of a planned activity.

 

Major Disruptions

 

When a major disruption occurs, such as, a major snowstorm that affects an entire region, the impact on travel can last days. Rescheduling becomes challenging and tempers often flare. One has to remain both determined and flexible to reach their destination. If you are going on vacation, you just have to face the fact that you are going to be spending a lot more of your vacation traveling than you planned. Flying from Denver to LA to get to Miami – no matter how unreasonable that may seem – might now be the only way to get there in the next two days.

 

At times, however, your schedule may no longer allow for the trip or you miss a planned event as you cannot reach the location in time. In these situations, your trip is completely derailed. In some cases, you can take the trip at a later date, but you will never be able to attend the wedding or birthday celebration that you missed.

 

Connections In Life

 

Connections in other parts of our life are very similar to connections in travel. If we miss making a connection, it can throw us off course. Sometimes this lasts for a short time and we are quickly back on track. However, other times, missing the connection can truly alter our lives.

 

Keeping an eye out for connections and paying attention to them when you notice them, is key to gliding through life. When we fail to notice connections or dismiss them as unimportant, bumps occur in the road. We no longer move smoothly through life and can be thrown completely off course.