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Seeking compassion in trying times

It is obvious that we are living in unprecedented times. None of us in this country ever expected a year like 2020 and a pandemic that has killed a half a million people in our country. Looking at the country we live in, I have seen people “rise” to the occasion of compassion for their fellow men and women. The Golden Rule states, “treat others the way you would want to be treated!”

I have watched and communicated with people that have gone far beyond that. Teachers, coaches, counselors, first responders, doctors, nurses, nurses’ assistants, EMTs, have exhibited some of the greatest compassion for others, many times risking their own life in the process. The main theme throughout REBT is the Golden Rule.

Many companies are struggling or have already shut their doors. Still others are rising to the challenge – not only going through the storm, but finding new ideas to stabilize their companies. The most effective leaders are putting people at the top of their priority list and expressing compassion and humanity in their workplace.

The CEOs have earned trust, allowing their employees to feel safe and collectively follow their lead as they face their challenges. Unfortunately, this group of people is very small, about 20% of the CEOs in our country.

A recent study of the Harvard Business Review found that 80% of CEOs and managers would like to be more compassionate, but do not know how. I can testify to this. Over the 30 years I spent in chemical dependency, I met one CEO who understood our job and those of us in the field and was a “hands-on” guy. He made a reasonable salary and his door was always open. The other 10 CEOs I worked for were egocentric, aloof and promised things to us that they never delivered. Their salaries were 50 times what we made and the push to get more clients, more groups, more one-to-ones, more notes contributed to many people leaving the field due to burnout.

Fear of the job and non-compassionate leadership without advancement was what we faced. It would have been nice if we had a union, but no one ever said that word for fear of being let go. For example, when I started, I did 10 groups a week, had 30 clients, did at least 20 1:1s with clients a week, spent more time typing notes that few CEOs ever read, besides my supervisors. I ran 3 AA and NA meetings per week as well as covering the community looking for clients — all for $18,000. The thought was, if you don’t like the pay, go somewhere else. Compassion for people’s work ethic was not recognized due to non-compassionate thinking.

However, I was fortunate to hook up with great counselors who were dedicated, compassionate and intelligent, who taught me chemical dependency the way it should be taught. We made history in WNY with REBT in the ’90s that is now called Behavioral Science or any other name that some of these treatment facilities think they were the only group that ever used it.

Compassionate learning involved unconditional trust and putting the emphasis on the client, not the counselor. Counselors in 2020 have my respect and compassion for what they are facing and what they are asked to do to keep people in treatment. As a teacher, basketball coach and counselor, I was used to human beings in my classes, on the basketball court and in treatment. I can’t fathom Zoom and all the other methods of trying to do a job that requires personal interaction. I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t do it. But that’s my opinion, knowing that many have no choice because that is the job they have.

While the majority of the country has “gotten it” during this pandemic, there are still many non-compassionate people out there that don’t get it.

The fact that I’m writing this article is a tribute to the nurses, doctors and orderlies who showed me great compassion during my 10 month illness in 2020. I had not been in the hospital in 40 years, so I had no idea what to expect. I was surprised at the care I received from my doctors, especially my primary doctor, Dr. Milazzo, who helped me each step of the way. Thank you, Rich, for your care and compassion.

This article is also for the people that are nameless, but go about their jobs daily caring for others with great compassion and expect nothing in return. Hopefully this pandemic has taught many of us to refocus on what life really is about, and to realize that many times God asks us to suffer for others and trust Him for the outcome by acceptance. As we show our true humanity as 20% of the CEOS, is it any wonder that their workforce would be more motivated? Truly listening to workers as we listen to our clients, connect with people where they are. There is enormous potential to inspire people as to the compassion that they are not used to. As Henry Ford said years ago, “Our cars are not built by one man or woman, it’s teamwork.”

Mike Tramuta has been a counselor for more than 30 years. Call 983-1592 for more information.

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