Location: Sorá, Panama
Minutes before, we were casually sitting in our chairs. Now though, we were furiously scrubbing our table, chairs and bodies with innumerable forms of disinfectant. My good friend Aris and I were in Panama. A few days before we set up a small clinic in an empty building. Our job at this clinic was to triage the individuals waiting in line to see a doctor. Having established our routine, Aris and I were became rather confident in our triage abilities. Aris sorted out how to use all the medical equipment, though much of it required a little more coaxing than what he was used to as a nurse in the States, and I had finally mastered (kind of) my Spanish translations from the English triage form. Soon, we were moving so fast that the doctors couldn’t keep up. Aris and I would triage a few patients then take a break to get reorganized or restock our basic supplies.
It was during one of these breaks that a doctor came to point out how our performance might improve. Rather casually, the he mentioned that we may wish to wipe everything down because in our rush to push patients through we had failed to notice that one of our patients had a bad case of scabies. Scabies is a highly contagious rash caused by mites, anyone aware of coming in contact with scabies would most likely scrub down and disinfect immediately. Aris and I, however, hadn’t taken notice for at least half an hour. This small oversight being the catalyst of the furious scrubbing of a table and chairs that minutes before were of little concern.Fortunately, neither of us ended up getting the obvious rash associated with scabies, though I am sure the high quantities of disinfectant didn’t do our skin any favors either.
It is amazing how quickly we change our perception once we become aware of our own failings. It is also interesting (and rather concerning) how these perceptions can make us feel a certain way. Whether we feel uncomfortable, safe, happy or sad, our perceptions are a strong part of what guides those feelings. In Panama, Aris and I’s perception was based on our own overconfidence in the consistency and continuity of our work, we could have likely avoided the issue all together by taking more time to focus on the individual rather than the routine.
One way to counteract the consequences of our potentially false perceptions is through self reflection. Sitting down to think is often overlooked. In a world of knee-jerk reactions and fast-pace decisions, taking pause and reflecting doesn’t happen as often as it should. There’s also a lot of power in prayer or meditation, one in being a connection to a higher power, but also in how it allows us to slow down, refocus and think. Some people go as far as scheduling time in their day to sit and think or pray, but all that’s really necessary to be intentional about reflection and creating moments to clear out all the noise that piles up.
Whether you’re focused on living your best life well into your 100’s or making it through the day without serious consequences, taking pause to reflect is likely a part of the solution you’re looking for. Try taking a few minutes when you would normally check your phone or turning off the music while you’re in the car. You might be amazed by what can be accomplished when you pause.