Where has Decency Gone?

My grandparents were known as decent people. Many people in our community revered them. We were s admonished for our behavior with people saying, “your grandparents would be upset to know that you are misbehaving.” “You know that is not the way a Waldrop acts.” Many times, we would wish a spanking from our grandmother rather than what my uncles called one of her “sermonettes.”

My grandmother was our childcare provider while our parents worked. These sermonettes required us to listen as she called upon us to be decent and caring people. She wanted us to be better than those around us. She expected us to be in church on Sunday mornings and, with one look, put a stop to any misbehaving. The “Golden Rule” was an essential theme in many of those sermonettes.

To paraphrase, “Do to and say about others what you would have done to and said about you.”

I took this quote to heart and it influenced how I cared for my patients and engage with friends, colleagues, and family.

From the first day of my internship, it became apparent that not everyone learned how to be decent. I had to work hard to complete all my notes. One of the attendings critiqued each one to make sure they were grammatically correct and accurate. I learned so much from her. I rewrote every progress note. Initially, I thought she was too harsh, but I soon learned that she cared and knew this was important for my success.

One afternoon during my intern year, I went in to admit a patient, and she kindly asked me to leave. I was “Colored,” and she was a very wealthy white female. Interns did the admitting history and physical on all admissions on the teaching service. I was happy to be sent away. It meant I could leave right after sign-out and get home early for once. Unfortunately, I was summoned back to the nurse’s station and told to go back in and complete the admission. The patient looked at me and said,” You and are going to have to work together.” I ended up leaving late, but I think we both learned a valuable lesson. The attending had told her that she would allow me to admit her or go home, and I learned that he was decent and supported me.

More people should have had the benefit of listening to my grandparents (Big Mama and Big Daddy). I am so thankful for their life and how they demonstrated people who behave decently. Unfortunately, so many events of the past few weeks have been disappointing. I have decided to share only articles from reputable news media sources. I plan not to share any articles from sources I am not familiar with the source. There is an assault on our democracy; it is more evident each day and is very disturbing to watch as our elected officials abdicate their power and influence.

As a physician, I have much at stake in the coming election. Many of my patients may lose healthcare coverage or be deported. The assault on sanctuary cities is a real threat to many of my patients. I know that many of my patients will benefit from the rise of the minimum wage. This is especially true for women of color who have struggled to care for their families with no health insurance and lower wages. For those who say they would instead not vote if their candidate does not win, I want to say as aa black female who grew up in Alabama, I have always had to choose the better of two evils. We have never had the privilege of not voting. You must vote to ensure democracy continues.

I am not ready to say whom I will vote for, but the candidate must be a realist—someone who openly supports reproductive and social justice and supports access to quality health care. The candidate must acknowledge the real consequences of climate change, support diversity, and increase access to quality education. We have a looming debt and a vast wealth gap, so the candidate must have a real plan. I am not naïve enough to believe that we can achieve “Medicare for all” or free education overnight. The Affordable Care Act must be fully implemented. It is a good start. I want free tuition for medical schools to increase and diversify our physician workforce.

Dr. King, “Letter from the Birmingham Jail:”

I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

2 thoughts on “Where has Decency Gone?

  1. Very well put. I feel sorry for teachers these days who have to try to convince children to behave decently and kindly given the volatile political atmosphere and uncivility in government. Thanks for sharing your personal experiences and how lucky you were to have such wonderful, smart grandparents and such a strong mentor.

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