This is part three of a series about Carolyn and her husband Charlie. Carolyn was admitted to hospice when she was sixty-nine years old with Parkinson’s disease. Charlie reminisced, “I’ve known Carolyn since we were in the first grade. We graduated from high school in 1962 and got married in 1968. Carolyn wanted to get married so bad that she thought that she couldn’t live without me.” By the expression on Carolyn’s face I’m pretty sure that the shoe had been on the other foot. Charlie continued, “So we had a talk. I told her that I wouldn’t go anywhere that I wouldn’t want her to go; I wouldn’t associate with anyone I wouldn’t want her to associate with and that I wouldn’t do anything I wouldn’t want her to do; and that I expected her to do the same. And it’s worked out pretty good for us. We’ve had a wonderful marriage.”
Charlie shared, “My motto was, ‘Work like you are going to live forever and live like you are going to die tomorrow.’” If Charlie had unquestionably complied with his supervisor’s orders on one certain workday he may not have lived to see the next. I’ll let Charlie explain: “I worked at Copeland’s Refrigeration for twenty-four and a half years. We manufactured condensers and compressors for refrigeration units. I was in what they called the labor pool for a while. We had assembly, welding, soldering and tear-down departments; and I knew how to do all the jobs. When a unit was returned because of malfunctioning it was the tear-down department’s job to dismantle it so the parts could be tested; and if they were still good they would be reused. One day the superintendent told me to loosen the solders on the units with a torch and I told him, ‘I’m not going to do it’. And he asked me, ‘Are you defying a direct order?’ I told him, ‘Yes I am’. He asked me why and I told him, ‘Because I want to live. If I understand correctly when you heat Freon to a certain temperature it turns into phosgene gas. He left and came back about a half hour later and said, ‘You’re right!’”.
I did some research of my own and Charlie was right. Phosgene gas is a highly toxic substance that was discovered by Fritz Haber, German scientist in 1916 and used in chemical warfare in World War I. It was eighteen times more powerful than the chlorine gas that Germany was previously using. And several HVAC websites talked about the risk of accidental exposure when working on air conditioning units.
What if Charlie hadn’t spoken up and said something that day. What if Charlie had assumed that his supervisor was right, that he knew what he was talking about; after all, he was the supervisor? Charlie’s story reminds me of an analogy shared by Dr. Ben Carson in his book “One Nation” (2014). I’ll paraphrase and abbreviate for space’s sake: “There was a young successful businessman who bought his mother exotic gifts for Mother’s Day. One year he bought her two expensive parrots that could dance, sing and talk. He wanted to surprise her so he had them delivered and waited a couple of weeks to call her to see how she liked them. She replied, ‘They tasted really good’. Shocked, he replied, “Mom, you didn’t eat them did you! Those birds were expensive and they could dance, sing and talk!” Then she replied, “Well, they should have said something”. Dr. Carson suggests that if we succumb to political correctness; that if we don’t speak up for what we believe in, “…that’s where we’ll end up to…”
A.W. Tozer in his book, “Keys to the Deeper Life” (1957), expressed his concerns about the church in his day, “…scarcely anyone appears to have the discernment or the courage to turn around and lean into the wind, even though the truth may easily lie in that direction…instead the parrot sat on its artificial perch and dutifully repeated what he had been taught and the whole emotional tone was somber and dull.”
Our team of hospice Social Workers have discussed and concluded that if we aren’t willing to “lean into the wind” and express our opinions against opposition when needed, that we should consider looking for another job; for what good are we if we don’t challenge growth and effect change? Or in Jesus words, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing…” (Matt 5:13-16)
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” (Edmund Burke, 1729-1797)
Loren Hardin is a hospice social worker at Southern Ohio Medical Center and can be reached at [email protected] or at 740-356-2525