Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The ink is black, the page is white

Race relations are more complex than passing laws and saying "look, we elected/hired a black person." A lot of the time real change is seen at a level that politicians and activists won't even tell you about.

So here's a story that you won't hear on the news or from a politico's mouth.

I have a patient, an elderly white man. His wife died 2 years ago, and he has no kids or local siblings. In 2010 he developed a relentlessly progressive neurological disease, with increasing disability over time.

A long time ago, when he was a teenager, his parents were prominent members of the Grumpyville community. When a group of black families wanted to build a community center, the majority of Grumpyville whites fought like hell to keep them from doing so. Because, after all, they were black people.

But Mr. Patient's parents were different. They had this bizarre (for the time) view that people were equal, and should be treated fairly. So they stood up against the majority of the community, bought a parcel of land for the community center, and then financed a large part of it out of their own pockets.

So it got built. And became a successful (and still in existence) black center in Grumpyville. Years went by. Mr. Patient's parents grew old and died, and then Mr. Patient grew old and sick.

There's nobody at the community center old enough to remember how it got started. Although the center's humble origins are doubtless memorialized somewhere on a wall or booklet, most of its members are my age or younger now.

Mr. Patient is stubborn (like most guys) and been reluctant to leave the house he and his wife have owned for 50 years. To him moving into a care home was out of the question. His financial resources, though comfortable, didn't allow him to hire much in the way of outside help. And he was too stubborn to call friends for help. So he worsened, and became increasingly unable to care for his home and self.

Usually these situations end in disaster. The patient is found lying on the floor, dead or near it, after the postman notices no one is getting the mail. But this one was different.

Last month, through the community grapevine, one of the administrators of the black community center heard about white Mr. Patient, and realized who his parents were. He contacted him to offer help, and to my surprise, Mr. Patient accepted.

So now Mr. Patient is able to continue living at his house because volunteers from the community center, all born long after the place was established, come to his home a few times a week. They bring him meals and groceries, help with the upkeep of the house, and are allowing him to stay there as long as possible.

That's what real measures of human change are.

41 comments:

C. said...

<3

Is it dusty in here or what?

Rick said...

That's so great!

Re: the mailman finding patients like this on the floor...it (unfortunately) is still a possibility for Mr. Patient. I hope he has access to a LifeAlert necklace or other personal alert system. Those things are lifesavers.

If he or any of your other patients need one but cant afford it, PCOMs Emergency Medicine club provides them for free--just shoot me an email!

Anonymous said...

Karma's not always a bitch,sometimes she's a real classy lady

Grumpy, M.D. said...

That's a good point, Rick. You are right. Yes, he does have one of those. I insisted upon it.

Knot Telling said...

Faith in human nature: restored.

emily said...

Thanks for writing that, Grumpy. You just made my week.

Anonymous said...

Great story - so nice to re-establish faith in humanity after all.

murgatr

Quarter Life Crisis said...

Thanks for that story, Grumpy. It's nice to hear that there is still some decency and kindness in the world.

Grumpyfan said...

1. ". . . complex then passing" should be "complex than passing."

2. "Most of it's members" should be "Most of its members."

3. The moral of the post: What goes around comes around. Sometimes.

Anonymous said...

So if his parents hadn't been *those* particular white people nothing would have happened?

Amanda said...

I love this story!

SalParadise said...

I read so often about man's inhumanity to man on large and small scales, I have a tendency towards desperation for us. Stories like this balance out those feelings and make me proud to be human again.

Karen Whiddon said...

That was an awesome thing to read and so close to MLK Day too. Thanks for posting it. Like others said, that made my day!

A.Resistenza said...

I have goose bumps and I'm so glad you posted this. I rarely have much faith in humankind anymore, this goes a long way to restoring that faith.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the heartwarming story :)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 8:07 -- you just had to spoil a good story, didn't you. Can we not accept this story for what it is, a heartwarming tale.
And -- Grumpyfan -- get off your grammar high horse. Sometimes you can just let these minor errors slide by.
Thank you, Dr. Grumpy, for sharing this little slice of people getting along.

Anonymous said...

Humane humans. I thought they were extinct.

Jono said...

As a species we have such great potential, yet the Golden Rule was booed at a debate a few nights ago. I don't get it.

Anonymous said...

Scumbag. Now I have a "Three Dog Night" earworm stuck in my head.

Kathy G said...

People are so quick to jump on negative stories, but don't report the positive ones. Thanks for sharing.

emmy said...

Ok, just so you'll know going forward; most communities have a program such as Meals on Wheels, http://www.mowaa.org/page.aspx?pid=253, whose purpose it is to care for and feed the elderly. In the community that I live in the group is called Project Open Hand. They mostly deal with low income seniors, but usually better off seniors can purchase the meals for a small price. The meals arrive, delivered by a volunteer whose job it is not only to deliver the meal, but check up on the senior. If the situation becomes critical, they know how to plug the senior into other services, allowing seniors to stay in their homes. These are well monitored programs that benefit the entire population they serve. I'm glad that your patient had that resource, and that his parents kindness is being returned to him, but not all your patients will be that lucky.

ms anthrope said...

This was much needed today. Thank you for also being the bearer of humanity's kind side.

clairesmum said...

thanks for sharing a story of people getting it right. my hubby got fired today (new boss of 3 months decided he is not a good fit for her style) and we had no idea it was coming. so, good to hear about human kindness.

Jess said...

Changes never happen overnight, but they happen. That's what's so grand about the human species and the fine folks that are part of it.

Anonymous said...

My father-in-law was involved with chamber of commerce etc in Keokuk Iowa during the 50s. The town wanted to build a "no blacks allowed" public pool. My FIL prevailed and the pool was open to all. That is the kind of man he was. Thanks for your post!

Angelina said...

A story of compassion warms my soul on a cold and chilly day.

Lo said...

Dr. I. B, you are a bright spot in a dark world. I love you and wish you everything good.......Love your blogs both funny and profound.

Kyla said...

That is a heartwarming story.

Chris said...

Just something in my eye here, I'm not tearing up. What an awesome story.

RehabRN said...

Grumpy:

Only take anon's comments seriously if you plan on publishing in another area (and you should consider this story--it's great).

Yes, it's nice to hear a good story about people helping each other to stay in their homes. Sometimes just being there is what keeps them alive, because they have so many memories.

May Mr. Patient (and the community) continue to have more, happy days because people care about others.

Anonymous said...

Well done. Thanks for sharing the good.

Moose said...

Awesome story. Three Dog Night ftw. :)

Anonymous said...

(Partially due to my pregnancy hormones ...) That made me cry.

Uro*MA said...

Love this story! :0)

gloria p said...

That's a lovely story and the way it SHOULD be.

Mandy Gardener said...

What a wonderful story! I usually read your blog for a laugh so imagine my surprise today to shed a little tear today while reading it.

I am a GP in Perth, Australia, but funnily enough I could swear you have seen some of my patients.
:)

scrubmama said...

Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing this story

TiredRPh said...

Just to restore more faith.....my mother is very ill. She refuses assisted living yet she needs 24/7 care. Not life saving, she's on hospice service, full dnr. I cannot care for her as I must work and also have a disabled husband. She has a friend across the country who has packed up her whole life to move in and take care of my mom. And they have never met face to face.

myoclonicjerk said...

Misty eyes

Can'tSpell, DVM said...

Thats a great story, thanks for sharing!

 
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