Social Exclusivity=Viagra

July 3, 2008

Published in the November 1, 2007 edition of QSaltLake.

“When a man is wrapped up in himself, he makes a pretty small package.” –John Ruskin

In a recent nursing school clinical, I was interviewing a “client” in an effort to determine resources that might be helpful to her and her family. In response to my question about whether or not she had difficulty meeting her health care needs, she stated that sometimes she has to cancel her doctor appointments when she doesn’t have three dollars to cover the Medicaid co-pay. That reality in her life has stuck with me. 

I’ve seen, first-hand, extreme poverty in both Russia and South America. I had multiple opportunities in these locations to witness just how unfair life can be. But this instance of poverty so close to where I live and work struck me in a whole different manner. These types of experiences, of which I feel lucky to have had a few, have made me consider the world in which I exist from a different perspective. 

I’m currently in my psychiatric nursing rotation and the Psychiatric Advanced Practice Registered Nurse who teaches the class has emphasized the importance of using the statement, “I hear you,” rather than, “I understand you.” You can never truly understand another’s life experience. You see the world as it filters through what you know and have experienced. But attempting to understand another person, even if it is from your perspective on the world, is important. I think it helps us to become more authentic, and it validates the unique life experience of both people involved. 

I know that most of my energy in life is focused on myself. I feed myself. I go to the gym to workout. I go to school to get my education. I go to work to pay my bills. I don’t think my focus is different than it is for most of the people I know. But because life requires that we exert so much energy on self-care, the time we spend focused on others becomes invaluable. 

I believe that gay people are some of the most compassionate and considerate human beings out there. But I also know there is a lot of selfishness in the gay community: after all, great pleasure can be derived from the feeling that you are in some way superior to others. Social exclusivity in the gay community is sort of like Viagra – far more people get their hands on it and lay claim to it than actually meet the requirements for its prescription. 

An acquaintance who reads my columns told me that before he’d met me in real life, I’d come across to him as an elitist. Now, most of the time, I think that I smell better than other people, but that’s about the extent of the ways that I feel I’m superior to others. All human beings are worth the same, and although my mother might disagree, my life is no more valuable to the world than anyone else’s. 

To conclude this very “off the cuff” column, I would like to share one more insight that has recently become clear to me: children are at the mercy of the situations that they’ve been born into. They need people like you to advocate and fight for them. In whatever way you choose. It might be marriage equality, HIV/AIDS education or any other cause about which you are passionate. Of all those who suffer from the disparities in our world, children are the most innocent victims. 

It’s my hope that, as a community and as individuals, we’re able to see beyond ourselves. That we can recognize when those who have less than we do are lifted up, the natural consequence is that it elevates all of us. It’s impossible to help another person without helping yourself. My personal experiences have led me to believe that when you give of yourself in any way, you always receive far more in return.

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