I love New Year’s resolutions and letting go of the past. Resolutions are a bet with myself that I can make a difference. Starting around Christmas I begin to think about my resolution. This year is different because I have reached a point in life that I realize that my purpose may not be to make the change, but rather educate the one that will be the change. My concern is that I won’t recognize the gifts the person has and know how to nurture their calling. How did my teachers see in me what I couldn’t see in myself in my early twenties?
Nineteen years ago I spent the holidays working a mass migration in Guatemala. It was one of the saddest and most memorable moments in my career as a US Public Health Service nurse and one of the moments that I recognized how much I owed to my nursing professors. They taught us to adapt and use the knowledge and resources we had to provide the best possible care.
They taught us things I thought I didn’t need to know and would never use and of course did need to know and did use. They knew what we didn’t, life is not predictable and if you have a strong foundation you will be able to adapt to any situation.
The beauty of the deer in the field as the fog began to rise was almost enough to momentarily forget that if I turned around there were 500 people that had been rescued from a ship that was helping them flee China for the freedom and promise the United States. The promise engraved on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” had beckoned to them. I still wonder what it must be like to desire freedom and not have it. What must it be like to get on a ship that isn’t seaworthy and risk one’s life for freedom only to have it cut short in Guatemala?
The feeling of helplessness as we told them they were being returned to China and having young women fall to the floor and cling to our legs asking for us to help them is life-changing. Never again were my views on immigration the same. Never again could I see that promise on the Statue of Liberty as anything other than an oath.
The trip from the air base where they were detained to the airport opened my eyes to the poverty all around. As we were on the bus the women were staring out the window and one commented that “these people should escape to China”. The poverty in Guatemala was so shocking to the Chinese women that they couldn’t imagine why anyone would stay.
Some people come to the U.S. for freedom, others to escape war and torture, and some to escape devastating poverty. All hope for a better life. All seek the promise we offer. This year I hope we live up to that promise and give the Dreamers a path to citizenship. I hope we find a way to open our borders rather than closing them. I pray for all those men and women I could not help and hope that in my lifetime we will recognize that when we turn away the poor, the hungry, the huddled masses yearning to be free we fail to recognize their humanity and we fail in our oath to the world.
In many of my experiences as a nurse, I wanted to reach out and thank those that prepared me. There were so many lessons that were both formal and informal. Lessons that taught me what was excellent work for one may be inadequate for another because they had different abilities, which was especially important as a supervisor of young officers. Or, the unspoken lesson that presentation and professionalism matters. Probably most important was to do with a smile what you know you are going to have to do anyway.
This year my resolution is to take the best of all the professors that taught me and use it to be the best possible professor and administrator. I want to reflect on the influence of others in my life and my successes and use them as a guide in my daily life and interactions with students and faculty. I want to be the example that I had. Each day I hope to reflect on my journey to grow as a nurse, a professor, and an administrator.
My door is open to any student that wants to learn more than what can be offered in the classroom. Every Wednesday I’m in town we will have coffee and discussion of nurses that have changed their communities, the profession, or inspired others to make the world a better place.
We ask so much of our students we need to be healthy to give them our best. This year I intend to give up the things that raise my stress level or cause me to be sedentary or distracted. When I’m stressed, distracted, or moving too slow I’m not available to others. First on this list is to stop reading tweets from @realDonaldTrump. Life is just too short for that much dishonesty and nastiness. Meat isn’t something I need and I feel better when I don’t eat it. No animal needs to die for me to eat. Television is a time pump and mind-numbing (Lady Vols Basketball being an exception). If the television is on I need to be cleaning, exercising, or otherwise engaged in something that involves moving. Motion is lotion and especially as I get older.
Let faith guide my career and my decisions. This may be in the tradition of Thomas Aquinas – faith, hope, love, prudent, just, brave, and temperate. Or, it may be through the acknowledgment that all the wrong karmas made by me were created from beginningless attachment, aversion, and delusion. Born of the body, mouth, and mind. I now repent all of them wholeheartedly.
It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge. — Albert Einstein