by Julie Ruchniewicz, BSN, RN
Faith Community Nurse, HMA Executive Director

“The World is changed by your example, not your opinion.” Mother Teresa

I read this in a book, of daily Mother Tereasa quotes, given to me by a friend. It has been 20 years since Mother Teresa died. She died unassumingly while the whole world was looking the other way. Everyone was preoccupied with the death and funeral of Princess Diana and Mother Teresa took that opportunity to slip from the world.

Mother Teresa had her own unique way of embracing the message of Jesus. People from every corner of the world were interested in her life and her work. Men, women and children, of all faiths or no faith, were captivated. She had an indescribable aura of holiness. She was a modern example of holiness.

This quote really touched me in this time of opinions shared on everything. I, myself, struggle to not share my opinion on the vaccine. My role is to educate and show by example. We have witnessed many people argue how bad some people are and how much better their own opinions are. Sometimes it feels good to pontificate our opinions all day long, but it doesn’t change anything.

Yet? What causes us to change our minds about something? A person’s opinion? Seeing the way someone acts or responds in a given situation? When has your opinion changed by how someone acted?

The custodial staff of Evanston Hospital has been a part of my job for over 30 years. They come in and wash the floors, get rid of garbage and linen. They are in the Neonatal unit a couple of times a day. I was kind to all, but did not go out of my way. To watch these courageous, unsung heroes, do their job so diligently during the pandemic was the response that changed my opinion. I have been intentionally asking about their day or weekend, thanking them for their hard work and sharing compliments. The result is a poignant conversation with a young woman who had a miscarriage, a nervous man who was new on the job and needed reassurance and another older gentleman forced to retire for health reasons. Because I opened my eyes to their example, my response to these amazing essential workers is changed forever.

You cannot force people to believe the same as you nor can you force them to do the right thing. However, it is always in our power to lead by example. Who knows who may be inspired to see the world differently by a simple act of kindness?