We live by standards … not opinions

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By Fran Salone-Pelletier, Religion Columnist

 Conversations buzz with judgments. Morality issues prevail. Everyone has an opinion regarding what is considered right or wrong, good or bad or just or unjust. Individuals, despite our national commitment to proclaiming innocence until guilt is proven, announce their verdict without need or assistance of a trial or a jury. A case in point is the front page news about the death of Ron Hewitt. A Wilmington StarNews column suggested the tragedy might be fodder for political embroilment. The buzz in the community ranges from declaring the death a suicide to hinting at murderous involvement. Lines are drawn — friend or foe. Everyone has an opinion!

I hope they are expressions of kindness and caring more than curiosity or smug satisfaction. I hope there is felt pain for the sadness inherent in the loss of life. I suspect, perhaps I hope, the opinions reflect sincere efforts to live by standards of truth, to abide by banners of mercy.

The Novant Health system bears such standards — ones applicable to all of us as godly people. Their four stated standards are short, simple and direct. Each one bears an action taken to ensure the standard is both completely understood and lived well.

First on the list is “know me.” The words are simple enough, but they demand knowledge of oneself, as well as the other. There is an unstated yet obvious requirement for attentiveness, a need for awareness and an alert spirit. One must be ready to listen carefully to what is said and what remains unspoken but clearly important. To know another involves time, effort, energy, patience, fortitude, and compassionate love. Only one who has given serious attention to those qualities in himself or herself can be open to know another deeply. “Know me” means I am fully present and attentive when I am with you. “Know me” commands deep interest and demands devotion.

Secondly, “respect me.” Knowledge now deepens to become a sensitive honoring of another’s personhood. The dictionary defines respect as a feeling of deep admiration for someone. I’d say it was like looking into the mirror of another’s being and finding the image delightful, one to be esteemed, appreciated, and revered. It’s easy to do, one would think, when we are in agreement. Difficulty arises when our thoughts differ and our opinions clash. Yet, this is the crucial time for respecting each other. This is the moment when the hard work of cooperation and collaboration begins. This is when we really take note and notice of our individual giftedness and find joy in incumbent diversity.

Thirdly, “care about me.” The last standard is by far not the least. Caring about another is saying, “I will be there for you in the way you need.” The way you need is not always the way I think you need or the way I want you to need. There can be no “should-ing” on each other here! Being present in the way the other needs is an expression of total selflessness. There is no egoism here. Only support, consideration, solicitude remain.

Finally, “delight me.” Think ahead. Go the extra mile. Anticipate the loving action. Surprise the other with unsolicited surprises, experiences that evoke a psychological handclapping reminiscent of a child’s joy at simple pleasures. It might best be expressed in the old-fashioned phrase, gladden the heart.

Know, respect, care, and delight each other. It’s not simply a hospital’s standard bearing. It’s heaven on earth! If this sounds too much like a Pollyanna perspective, let me mention I also spent a bit of time with a minister who had been active in the Special Forces. This is scarcely the antiseptic environment of the medical field. Yet, those who are in this service also deal with life and death situations. They also have standards to keep, meet, and hopefully surpass.

We talked about today’s warring nations and the resultant human damage, if not death. I had multiple questions. His response was straightforward. There are only three standards by which this arm of the military lived: men, mission, me.

Always, no matter how difficult or dangerous the action, the men and women were somehow to be brought home. Deliberate action would be taken. No one would be left behind. The standard would, in some instances, cause concern and negative comments, as it has with the recent release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, freed in a swap for Taliban leaders.

The second standard that is intrinsic to the first is mission. All involved must have a sense of mission as primary and paramount in their minds and hearts. Accomplishment of the mission is the driving force that underpins the imperative to be comrades in arms, saving all.

Finally, there is me. Not first or best or only, “I” am last in service with all and in service to all. There is no change or diminution in the priority list. It’s another way to express and live the know, respect, care, and delight standards. I listened ... and thought ... no wonder this man is now in God’s service. It’s a lateral move to serve humankind in God’s mission putting others first.

In stark contrast are the standards of those who live for the fulfillment of personal whims and wishes. Wealthy in goods and treasures, they seem unaware of the poverty around them. Sadly, they are less aware of their inner poverty — a dearth that is, as well, a death.

To speak of men and women, humankind, being first is unimaginable to anyone who can only see and say, “What about me?” To mention mission as life’s meaning is to evoke scoffing laughter. “What about me?” To speak of giving without thought of receiving recompense or reward is to be idiotic, ill advised and a bonafide crackpot. To put myself last is more hare-brained an idea than all the rest.

When all is said and done, none of us can walk in the shoes of a once popular and powerful sheriff whose popularity and power did not save him from an untimely demise. None of us knows what is in the heart and mind of a man who disappeared in the midst of duty, trailing cries of desertion by his comrades. All we know are the standards by which we have chosen to live. All we can do is to examine those standards. Are they the result of personal whims and wishes or meaningful mission? Do they emerge from closed opinions or open hearts?

The answers will determine whether they are indeed standards that will bring life, bear truth, cause justice and evoke charity.


Fran Salone-Pelletier has a master’s degree in theology and is the author of Awakening to God: The Sunday Readings in Our Lives [a trilogy of Scriptural meditations], lead chaplain at Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center, religious educator, retreat leader, lecturer and grandmother of four. She can be reached at grammistfran@gmail.com.