Listening to Beverly speak about the med-students she teaches, and what a humble approach she has to this whole thing, I cannot help but think these are lucky med-students for having such a considerate and thoughtful teacher.

And I wonder… when did I start to recognize humanity in myself?

Is it a something that starts when, as a wee baby, we first realize we are separate from our mother/father? Isn’t that at least what the story is, about that first state of separation anxiety that hits children around 8-9 months of age?

But nah… that’s pushing it. Humanity is a fairly complex term, one I don’t think we can begin to grasp until we are much older. So let’s fast-forward a bit, to my late teens, when I had a defining experience.

Working over the summer at a care-home for (mostly) older people who no longer could take care of themselves. Each resident had a small apartment with kitchen and a bathroom, and there was staff on-site 24-hours a day. Tending to the residents was our job, and… oh, did I ever, in my weak moments, not recognize the humanity in the people I was there to serve.

There was an old lady suffering from quite severe Parkinson’s disease. However sweet she was, because she was; however many interesting conversations we had, because we did (if memory serves me, she’d been a teacher); when it was time to eat, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner, or the obligatory Swedish Fika in between, that’s where I in my ignorant youth, lost any sense of the humanity in her.

She strove to eat on her own, and if I close my eyes, I can still remember how I, at one time, when the residents were given soup for lunch… she put her hand holding the spoon to the plate, filled it with soup, and then started on the long and shaky road to her mouth. Not a lot of soup left on the spoon by the time it got there, and I just couldn’t stand it. I started to spoon-feed her, short of patience. Completely void of it.

Any extenuating circumstances?
Well. Perhaps that was a day when we were short-staffed, with plenty of other residents to feed?
But… most likely, not.

This wasn’t the defining moment though… that came later.
Witnessing one of my colleagues –a lady I still keep in touch with, that’s how special she is!– with the residents, and noticing. Oh. How. She. Did. Recognize humanity in both self and other.

She looked at these people, with love in her eyes. She laughed with them. Talked to them. Cared for them. And never did I see her treat anyone (residents or colleagues alike) with anything less that the utmost respect.

Witnessing her, I could tell this is what she was put here on earth to do, care for others.
Witnessing her, I could tell, I wasn’t. Not in the same way, at least.
Witnessing here, I could tell, most of our colleagues weren’t either.

A great example.
One I’ve carried with me, vividly, for thirty years now.

Now. Today. Here.
I wonder if this was not one of the times when I first, truly, was made aware of what it means to recognize humanity in self and others.

Have you too experienced such a moment?

Inspired by the snippet above, extracted from episode 22 Recognizing humanity in self and others of Tankespjärn with Helena Roth, a podcast of meandering conversations, this time with Beverly Delidow.