Squirmy truth

Dear President Trump,

Yesterday I was 5 minutes late to the group I run at the VA for women vets with substance abuse problems. I am often one or two minutes late to the group but have never pushed it so far as being a full 5 minutes late. As I walked into the room one of the women asked what time it was and when I answered she rhetorically asked what time group starts. I should have gauged how upset she was but I didn’t and thought a basic, quick apology would allow us to move on. But she was mad. This is a low barrier harm-reduction group and we have had a policy that people can come in quietly no matter how late they are and she responded to my apology saying that if the policy didn’t change and I didn’t get my act together, she would stop coming to group. All this was playing out in front of other group members and my trainee. I got defensive, saying I have things scheduled back-to-back, that I would work on being on time, that we aren’t changing the policy, and it was her choice if she opted not to come to group, though I hoped she would change her mind. Not terrible but not very diplomatic or mature. Or respectful. We sort of patched things up and at the end of group I let her know I’d heard her.

Later in the day yesterday I realized the squirmy truth that there are people for whom I would never be 5 minutes late and people for whom I cut myself lots of slack. No surprise, but where I’ve drawn the line is quite predictable; people with as much or more societal power as me get the courtesy of my timeliness and people with less societal power than me historically have not. And that’s really not ok. I wish I could say that I’ve always been respectful of all other people’s time but it took a disabled veteran with a long history of crack addiction who was brave enough (and hurt and angry enough) to call me out publicly for me to own this. I’m guessing the point of telling you this story is probably clear even to you but just in case it’s not here it is: no matter where we are in the social/political pecking order, it is not ok for any of us to disrespect anyone either by keeping them waiting or treating them as though they are invisible or demeaning them in anyway.

May we all be safe and respected.
May we all be happy and respectful.
May we all have healthy regard for ourselves and each other.
May our lives intersect with grace, ease, and mutual respect.

Tracy Simpson

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