Wednesday, June 15, 2016

How do we stop violence?

In the wake of the recent tragedy in Orlando, I have been privileged to converse with several friends and relatives who are in favor of increased gun rights and who are opposed to restricting gun access in this country.  None of them are hateful or bigoted and none have the intention to kill other humans.  They challenged me to consider my position carefully.  These are the points I heard and my responses to them.
1. The second amendment gives us the right to carry guns to defend ourselves from the US military should an authoritarian government attempt to kill us.
-I understand the deep distrust of government that our very democracy was founded upon.  However, our government is currently armed with nuclear weapons.  If we actually had a government intent on killing us and felt as though it was our responsibility to preemptively attack the US military, we would also need nuclear warheads. Should every American have an atomic bomb?
 This may seem ridiculous but it is not.  The Syrian government very recently released chemical bombs on it's own citizens.  Would Syria have been a safe place if each citizen was armed with his and her own chemical bombs in retaliation?  If our only recourse against violence is more violence, then we would need an arms race for each person.
2.  If the people in the bar in Orlando would have been carrying guns, someone would have killed the shooter before he killed so many people.
-  This may be true.  I will give you the benefit of the doubt that an inebriated person who was shot in the dark would have had the ability to recognize and shoot the killer before he continued his rampage.
- But think about your position here.  Please consider for a moment the type of society we want to create.  Are we saying that every person should continuously carry a weapon to avoid violence?  Are we saying that the only solution to stop violence is for everyone to be able to kill?  Please imagine for me a society where every man, woman and child must at all times be armed and on the lookout for danger, able to shoot any suspected opponent.  How could we live?  Violence begets violence.

I lived in Detroit, Michigan for four years and in Camden, New Jersey for one.  In those situations, I worked in dangerous neighborhoods and had no car.  I walked past dangerous, high, drug dealing people.  I never carried a gun.  My method of safety was to know my neighbors and the street corner drug dealers by name, to greet them politely, and to avoid being intrusive.  In both cities, furthermore, I worked for organizations that fostered neighborhood safety.  It was not through violence.  In both cities, I worked with unarmed neighborhood watch clubs (mostly senior citizens) and block clubs who reduced violence in several ways:
a. Creating relationships with their neighborhoods and better understanding who was around them.
b. From these relationships, being able to spot and report suspicious on- goings or dangerous persons in their premises.
c. Destroying abandoned buildings and monitoring local parks so that public spaces could be made safe.
d. Forming trusting relationships with community police members leading to better response times and more regular reporting of crime.


In this country, (I hope) we do not believe in dumping poison into our air and water and then saying that it is the responsibility of  private citizens to clean up their own air before breathing and their own water before drinking.
Similarly, I do not think we as a community should relegate safety to a private good, which one earns through his or her own vigilance.

I believe and I have lived this fact: Safety can be achieved when we build a sense of community.  It is not achieved through violence.

Finally, for all those who espouse gun rights as some type of religious good...  How do the words of Christ, who did not even allow Peter to harm the men who crucified him, affect the way you live?  Multiple times, Jesus turned the violent Zionist rhetoric of his time on it's head by radically proclaiming that a person remain peaceful and non-violent.  Remember, he preached this to people who were in danger of being killed and abused by Romans on a daily basis.

If you disagree with me, great! Please give me your thoughts on how you would want to foster a peaceful society.  Perhaps you have a better way.  If so, I would love to learn about it.


Saturday, May 7, 2016

Love is in no Diamond


Diamonds

Don’t buy diamonds for me, my love
Nor plastic that lasts though the earth tries to absorb

Love is a handful of wildflowers—coneflower, daisy, poppy too.
Plucked in my hand they wither, need reminding, renewal

Love is a watercolor on parchment—dissolving and bled if thrown out in the storm.

Love is a garden, in need of watering, weeding, sun's warm.

Love for one day cannot stand alone.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Two lives, two dreams.


I have not one life,
But two

Not one dream
But two

And How they belong to each other

I never knew

When I lived the first one
The foolish,
The zealous
The brave

I stayed awake
And saw myself
Who I could become
Hollow, proud,
Estranged.

In that first garden
Was born
a second dream

Of feet on earth
And every cell in my being
Part of my surroundings
Woven in
To those around me

Myself, not remarkable
Not applauded
But part
Of something deeper--
Love-- Life's true art

My past is a mirror
I look in and see
I am no visionary nor savior,
Not wise nor supreme.

But a stone, a brick, a member
Of the Mother, who,
Carrying the world,
Leads us to peace.


I am getting ready to get married.  I am halfway through medical school.  I am pursuing a dream that I had while in the Peace Corps, of doing rural medicine in the US and somehow supporting medical education overseas.  Sometimes, I wonder if I am on the "right" path, but at those times, I have to remember what I learned in Uganda-- about the centrality of community, about the hard work and talent I saw there, about the role I saw for myself in supporting amazing people and organizations.


At times, I can intellectually wish that I somehow reduced the time spent before medical school.  But when I have a crisis of calling or feel the itch to remain nomadic, I am truly grateful for the time I had to grow.


"It may be that the satisfaction I need depends on my going away, so that when I've gone and come back, I'll find it at home."  Rumi



Thursday, August 13, 2015

A reflection on Love


I Corinthians13:1 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.


Painstakingly ground and fashioned

Paint-

Degrees
Distinctions,
Travels,
Languages
Skills

Project a tribe, a spirit,
Facade of perfection
Lifeless portrait

Behind them I hide
My soft, seeking heart
Torn and jagged edges
My ragged, dust blown soul

Love
Is the artesan well, springing ever slow

That reveals my scars- naked and clean

When I accept them, without denial,

I am ready to accept,
to embrace,
to see,
You.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

How to study for Medical School pt. 2-- Owning it.

"I was disappointed to see only forty 40 of a class of 175 in lecture today" began one professor's email to the class last semester.  At first I bought his idea-- come to class, take notes; that's THE WAY to do it, right? Hard work, endurance, training to go without sleep, right?

 I did it that way the first block of each semester-- each time with some professor or friend's voice in my head.  Each time I tried, I had less time to study, sleep, and exercise.  I performed adequately, but not at my best, during exams.

What was wrong? I had not taken ownership of the class and of the material, of my learning style, and of all of the options available to me.

Each semester, my best blocks were those in which I attended NO classes physically, but used my time to read the course book and stream lectures online instead.  During these blocks, I was well rested, exercised daily, and cooked my own food.

Taking ownership of the material meant waking up in the morning not because of a class but because of my responsibility.  It meant actively studying in the library with a friend instead of passively sitting in the lecture hall. It meant understanding that rest and cognitive ability were paramount to success.

This was difficult.  It was difficult because the only measure of success is just that; not martyrdom, not suffering-- only mastery.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

How to Study For Medical School



I had been worried about my biochemistry grade because I picked up a new boyfriend last block and was more than a little distracted from learning about complete human metabolism.  The final biochemistry block on the endocrine system, therefore, was not only experientially relevant, but increasingly critical.  In addition to allowing myself unbridled dark chocolate indulgence while studying biochemistry, I decided to skip class (watch lectures on double speed via internet) and instead to meet with my peers for problem solving and material analysis.  I chose to meet with one friend, Tracy, for a slow, detailed analysis of each chapter then with another friend, Nicole for a quick discussion of key processes twice a week.  Things seemed to go well throughout the month long block.  The last day of class, Tracy wanted to meet and so did Nicole.  I nervously suggested that the three of us join forces Friday at 7pm.  By Wednesday,  I was developing a raging viral infection; I was coughing, hoarse, aching, and tired.  Friday only provided time for my symptoms to escalate.  I arrived with five surgical masks so that I wouldn't spew contaminants all over Nicole's house. 

Nicole had been at a very fun birthday party the previous night and was still "tired". I decided not to bring food because of my germ spewing and communicated this to Nicole, suggesting she eat beforehand.  I thought Tracy indicated she planned to eat beforehand… but forgot to verify. 

Through the evening and into the night; one "tired", one spewing germs, one starving, we busted and laughed and drilled through the most difficult concepts of the biochemistry endocrine module.

At the end, Tracy confessed she hadn't eaten since breakfast and I had sneezed my way through two hospital masks, and wads of tissues…. The endocrine system and the final block of exams, however, stood no chance of deterring us.  I ended up earning the highest grade of my semester on that biochemistry block... and having much more fun than ever before.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

SURPRISE! Medical school is ....... fun!

So, what is medical school like? Hmmm, Medical school is like high school marching band camp.  I was tired and sweaty most of the time and I worked my butt off to improve my skills.  Several times, I found myself on the wrong spot in the football field and Mr. Hogeboom would shout into his loudspeaker "Zoutendam! What are you doing?"
  During the first week, we had several orientation activities.  During one, local physicians took us out to eat in groups.  While waiting for my group to assemble, I became so involved talking to a group adjacent to mine that my physician couldn't find me for a few minutes.  After the first week of orientation, we had a white coat ceremony and were given our stethoscopes and hospital badges. That weekend, I did a reflection exercise at the ER.  A minimalist, I had not purchased an ironing board but needed to iron my white coat.  I tried to save time by not putting a towel down to iron over.  As I started to lift my white coat up from the carpet, it didn't budge.  A harder tug, and streams of carpet glue became visible underneath.  The next hour was spent scraping bits of carpet from my white coat.  At the ER later that evening, an alarm I had forgotten about on my phone began to go off, with Whoopie Golberg singing "Get up off of that thing, and dance till you feel better!"  At least the ER resident laughed instead of yelling into a loudspeaker!
Then we started classes.
 I go to class everyday with 175 extremely bright, professional and motivated classmates.  Each professor, tutor, academic success person, community liason, and clinical instructor works to help us learn as much and as well as possible.  Within about three weeks, we covered what I learned in two years of undergrad science courses.
I am no longer learning alone for myself.  I no longer sit at home at a table in front of a book.  I am learning for many and with many.  I am constantly challenged to increase my knowledge so I contribute to my study group or practice group's performance.  I practice my clinical exam interview questions not for the test in December but because my team mates are very passionate about it and often invite me to practice with them.  I must read ahead of lecture so that my classmate can discuss it with me directly after class. 
Furthermore, the professors have daily office hours, multiple tutors available and academic success professionals.  The system is built for hard work and for success.  I am not working against the grain of a system weeding me out but with a team that helps me to improve in every way.
  When in need of diversion, we are constantly bombarded by extra meetings, specialty interest groups, advocacy organizations and clinical opportunities.  There is even a medical school band (pretty good too!) called the Arrhythmias.
  At the end of high school band camp, I had practiced with many small groups and mastered new choreographed moves.  I had sweat through all my packed clothes and had woken up several times into a bolt upright salute "Yes, Mr. Hogeboom, sir!"  I had also mastered a new octave (trumpet) and forged real friendships with band mates.  After doing my laundry, I found myself waiting for the next year's band camp.  Although I don't think I will long to do medical school again, I can only describe it as intensely fun.  Fun in the fact that I am truly challenged and motivated and stretched and learning.  Fun in the fact that I have great team mates that challenge me to increase my professionalism and dedication.  Fun in the fact that I am exposed to so many new and exciting opportunities.  Even if some days, I am in classes and activities for 10 hours before I can begin to study, as if I am playing trumpet in the rain in a soggy field; there's nothing I'd rather be doing.