School is out. Luckily for you, the Doctor is in.
The twenty-first century has brought with it international unrest, a rise in negative social attitudes like anti-Semiticism, natural disasters the likes of which haven't been seen in hundreds of years, a global economic down-turn, wars, terrorism, increases in violence against women on a mass-scale described by the World Health Organization as a "pandemic"--and even more terrible, monstrous things. And yes, some good has come out of the new century, the most important of which are technological advancements. Improving technology helps promote mass communication, education, and of course, medical research. While all of these things are social-positives, it should be noted that though "new" cures for things like cancer seem to be on the verge of discovery every ten years or so, there is still no cure. Nor is there a cure for diabetes. Heart disease. Or things like seizures. There is, however, a global rise in all chronic disease. In other words, you may hear about how less people die from chronic disease because of new medical research, but that is not an indicator that diagnoses have diminished.
So, more people--not less--are sick. And will continue to be. The chances of the average healthy person having to write a get-well card or email, or make a sick-visit to a relative or friend, is quite high. About 50% of you will have to do this unpleasant but necessary social-task in 2012. And when you do so, you should be aware of what to say, and, when to shut-up. Because nothing feels worse than being sick, and while sick, having to deal with socially-inept imbecilic behaviors from "well-meaning" people. If you actually mean someone well, make the effort to learn how to appropriately do so. Otherwise, don't bother. Pity is never a friend to anyone.
First, make the effort to send a card or email immediately. Not a week later but right away. Follow up your card with a phone call. Not everyone has the time to visit, and that's perfectly understandable. Not acknowledging the sick-person's suffering is not. When you do pen that get well card or email, be sure NOT to say how "terrible" or "horrible" it is that the person has the disease. They already know and do not need any reminders from you. What they do need is a compassionate statement of acknowledgement: "I'm so sorry you're dealing with this; I can only imagine how difficult it is. Please let me know what I can do to help."
If you do add in that last offer to help, again, follow up with specifics: "I'm free on Tuesday night and can bring dinner for the family," or "This Wednesday I have the day off and can do your grocery shopping when I do mine." Don't over-extend yourself; that helps no one. But making a specific offer to help tells the sick-person that you recognize how the sick person's life is being effected while also understanding that the sick-person has enough to deal with and will not be able to respond to a vague offer--which in reality, isn't truly an offer at all.
Never say, "I know how you feel," or "I know what you mean," if you yourself have never experienced the same diagnosis as the sick-person. Never. It's insensitive; it's an untruth, and worse, it's incredibly rude. You also want to avoid judging the sick person's progress, or lack thereof. Doctors may give a general time-frame for when a person should begin to heal, or feel better, or complete a prescribed treatment, but medicine isn't a literal art. Basically, one size DOES NOT fit all. So be positive and encouraging, no matter what.
During your phone call or email or in-person visit, do not burden the sick-person with your problems or overwhelm them with negativity from your life. Doing so is like mixing the sick person's food with the contents of some petrie dish contagion or injecting the sick person with slow-acting poison--essentially, you and your negativity are toxic. Sterilize yourself and neutralize your negative "germs" before doing your good deed. The sick-person is a captive audience. Taking advantage of this fact is reprehensible. DO bring your smile. DO help the sick-person to see beyond their suffering by asking about positive future goals or
plans, or paying the sick-person compliments about their home and family to remind the sick-person there are still good things in this world. Something easily forgotten when sick.
And keep track of the sick-person's progress, even after your visit, call, and/or email; check in either through email or by phone every three days or so. Don't forget about the sick-person. Being sick is socially-isolating. Maybe the sick-person is bedridden at home; maybe the sick-person is in the hospital. Whatever the case may be, the sick-person is stuck. The ENTIRE reason behind having a society is not so that we may all be selfish gits getting on with our own business; other people are our business. We tend to forget that sometimes in 21st century life.
"Do unto others"...because without them, health (and wealth) are meaningless.