Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Getting Oriented

A few days ago I attended a DAY LONG new employee seminar for the County of Los Angeles. Well, I'm not a employee but a volunteer, and I thought I couldn't sit another moment until this story came up.

The facilitator was trying to get the point across that we can't judge people, and we can't make people feel bad about themselves. She used as an illustration, a true story that happened to her when she sat, years ago, on the STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease) Phone Hotline for the County.

It seems a man called wanting advice. He had just come back from a bachelor party out of town and while there, well, there were 25 guys and two women. By the time it was his turn, there were no more condoms, which didn't slow the party down one bit. However, when he got home, his PREGNANT wife had missed him, and wanted to be with him. But he was afraid to, because he didn't know if he had contracted an STD from the party girls.

Our storyteller then proceeded to tell us that she just could not answer him, and there was a few seconds of silence on the line. The caller assumed that she was outraged by his behavior, and proceeded to say that he would find some other way of pleasing her until he could determine whether he was infected in any way.

But the facilitator felt bad that she had made this man feel worse than he already, obviously did. And I learned a lot from this. Yes, the facilitator was momentary shocked at the admission. Yes, his behavior was outrageous. Yes, he was wrong. But he knew that, and he didn't want his behavior to affect the woman he truly loved.

I was moved by it all. In the field of public health, we sometimes have to put aside out personal feelings of outrage to reach out and help others. We have to go beyond our limitations and not judge others. This man was wrong and right at the same time. And that's life.

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