Opinion Columns & Blogs

Thanks to everyone who aspires to greatness

I think a lot about gratitude – I don’t know why, really. It might be the years of Catholic school, the Shriners who taught me to walk again as a child or the fact that I got to spend a lot of time on the beach this year, but it’s definitely part of my life.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday – I love a good excuse to cook and eat lots of food with folks I love. I have a lot to be grateful for.

In mid October, I found myself at Providence St. Peter’s for eight days recovering from emergency surgery. It was all the terrible things that eight days in the hospital can be – but the staff was very nice and thoughtful and my medical care from Group Health was top notch.

The nurses and CNAs were amazing people, for the most part, keeping a close eye on me and making sure I wasn’t in too much pain while gently and firmly getting me out of bed and back on my feet. They were wonderful … and harried. Each of them has a substantial list of things on their mind and despite their best efforts you can often sense their level of stress.

Every day their checklists are long and their responsibilities are great. It’s clear that their directives are to get a lot done, when their preference is to do high quality work.

After eight days, I talked my way out of the hospital. The day I was discharged I was fixated on home, but my doctor had made it clear that I needed to stop at Group Health before I did anything else. That was the last thing I wanted – I wanted my house, my room, my kitchen, my peace and quiet. I was miserable.

Yet I was so grateful to be in the car with my best friend headed home – even if I did have to stop on the way. Homeless folks are regularly released from the hospital with no place to go, which is not something I cannot imagine. Everyone deserves a place to recover. I was desperate and happy to get to mine.

You must follow your doctor’s orders, so I did. That’s when I met Linda, a nurse in surgery and recovery. She was focused, thorough, pleasant, and exacting. She changed packing and performed wound care efficiently and expertly. She took copious notes on my care and explained everything in detail in ways that made sense. She was able to focus on one thing at a time and do it well. I left feeling much better than when I got there, and I have every time I’ve seen her since. Her expertise has helped me avoid complications, I’m sure of that.

This holiday season, I’m extraordinarily grateful for expertise.

Everywhere in our lives, it is expertise that helps us rise. I’m grateful to Dana Barnett, my high school English teacher who kept to her high standards despite being told she was an anachronism --- she taught me to write. I’m grateful to my boss from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign for his daily speeches on winning something, every day.

I’m grateful to every person who understands that when I encourage us to be better educators, parents and advocates for neglected children, advocates for the homeless, citizens of Olympia and so much more, I do it out of love and a strong appreciation of the value of being extraordinary at things. We are all capable of greatness – in order to get there, we learn and follow the experts.

The acceptance of mediocrity can lead to egregious consequences. Mediocre attention to my medical care could have led to life-threatening complications. Neglect of children breeds broken adults. Secret and clearly mediocre grand jury proceedings fail to bring justice and undermine our sense of safety, equality and hope for the future.

Linda’s exactness set a standard for my care of myself. Her expertise is why I’m recovering without incident. Mrs. Barnett’s constant essay assignments gave me skills that I use to support myself (and my foster daughter) today. This Thanksgiving I’ll be grateful for my health, yes.

But more than that I’ll be grateful for everyone with high expectations who have been given the freedom to do something expertly. They are the reason that we thrive.