“We’re in the dark,” my fellow worker Jane told me on the phone.
“Come again? What happened?” I asked her, becoming anxious.
“There was a power outage and we are running on a generator.”
“Oh my God!” I exclaimed.
It was a stormy day. I was away from the nursing home at a seminar. During a break, I had called to the facility to check on pending issues. The bad news only increased my worries.
“The administrator is here doing his best. The maintenance guy is working hard to find the problem,” Jane stated.
A nursing home without electric power on a summer day means no hot water for showers, no ice, no cooking, no television, no computers, no copy machines, no faxes, and, worse, no air conditioning.
“Jane, that’s critical!” I replied, shaking my head.
The generator only provided power to a few areas of the halls, and supplied electricity to the emergency outlets, mainly for oxygen concentrators.
I worried about the residents and how they were coping with something new and unexpected in their day.
After the seminar I stopped by at the facility. It was still raining and misty outside. The once well lit halls were filled with shadows and it was muggy inside. I started my rounds.
I glanced at my residents. They looked worn out, but they were calm, and patient. They were hopeful things would return to normal soon. In the meantime, they savored ice cream that was brought in.
Mr. Stephens, one of the residents, appeared in good humor. “We’re okay; we’ll do what we used to do back in the days when we didn’t have electricity,” he joked. It was a blessing that someone could put on a smile during these hours of crisis.
I observed the staff. They looked sweaty and tired, but I didn’t hear one complaint. I looked at the administrator. He moved fast throughout the facility, checking every resident room and station, giving instructions, making phone calls.
Then I glanced at the maintenance man, Mr B. He remained—as usual— quite serene despite he critical situation. He ran in and out of the building, checking the electric system, digging in the ground, running cables, plugging and unplugging machines. Although soaked and wet from the rain, he kept his focus at all times.
Mr. B always amazed me with the way he handled the stress of his work.
“You are always fixing problems,” I told Mr. B one day. “I don’t know how you hide the stress,” I observed.
“I do get stressed!” he replied.
“Really?” I grinned, doubting.
“Of course! But I have to control myself. If I don’t control myself, how am I going to resolve the problems?”
How clever! I mused, looking at Mr. B.
I had previously learned that Mr. B, a tall man in his 50s, had served in the Army in his younger days. Although he rarely talked about his personal life, I surmised the discipline of the military trained him well and carried into his work ethic of tackling every problem with vigor.
“Did you learn stress management in the Service?” I dared to ask.
“Definitely. If you don’t keep self-control, you can get killed. That’s how serious it is!” he asserted.
Serious he was. Mr. B normally looked serious. Even when joking around. He was always polite and respectful. He kept busy, never wasting time, or slacking.
“But Mr. B, you can’t tell me that you don’t feel anxious and nervous when you’re stressed!” I challenged him.
“I do feel anxious and nervous,” he admitted.
“So, how do you control those feelings?”
“Breathing!” he pointed at his nose. “By knowing how to breathe.”
Mr. B gave me a good lesson. Not only about the breathing technique to manage stress, but also by making me realize that everyone around us—people that we may easily overlook— have important jobs and lessons to teach us.
The electric crisis was resolved after several hours successfully. No more darkness. No longer muggy. As the lights returned and brightened the whole place, and the cool air returned comfort to us all, I recognized that I was surrounded by many amazing people. Treasured people.
How fortunate I am.