*Not to scare you off, but the following note is far too long and written by a 24-year-old: just a warning. Thank you for reading, and I genuinely hope it is worth your time.*
Before I joined the Life Touch Hospice family, which was and is an absolute honor, I had the pleasure of working for the Boy Scouts of America as a Professional Scout. Scouting and Hospice may seem on opposite ends of the spectrum, but like many things in life, things aren’t as they seem. Hospice and Scouting were both founded and continue to operate on a particular set of principles. Those founding values are what make an organization, or person for that matter, successful. To quote Simon Sinek, “People don’t buy WHAT you do; they buy WHY you do it.” I highly recommend watching his TED Talk, “How great leaders inspire actions.” It sounds much better when he says it, but it is profound nonetheless.
Scouting has the Scout Law; A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. And yes, like a proper Scout, that was from memory. What you may not know are the founding values of Hospice Care. Dame Cicely Saunders, who deserves to have her story read a thousand times over, founded the first Hospice Care facility, St. Christopher’s Hospice in London, in 1967. Eleven years later, in 1978, the National Hospice Organization was formed in the United States. The NHO, now known as the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, was founded on five fundamental values; Service, Respect, Excellence, Collaboration, and Stewardship.
Before I talk about each of the values, I think it is necessary to point out why I would bring any of this up at all. Most organizations, profit or non-profit, have founding principles. You may ask yourself, “If everyone has them, why point out Hospice’s and spend the time writing this?” Good question. It seems founding values are seen as mundane or even posturing if seen at all. People are so focused on WHAT to do; we rarely set aside time to figure out WHY we do it. We, as people and organizations, must know and bind ourselves to our values lest we lose sight of our “why.” It is our “why” that draws people to us, and it is our “why” that keeps us focused on loving and treating people with respect. Also, having founding values and living out of those values daily are two completely separate things. I am proud to say I work for an organization that lives out its values every day. I wrote this to explore values, the impact they make, and to encourage others to discover and live by their values.
Before I go off on another tangent, let me get back to those five fundamental values of Hospice. First, we have service or the idea of engaging those we serve. Service is not a passive term. Engaging service is actively and continuously pursuing patients or customers. Open communication, genuine surveys, and constant observation are all keys to engaging. Engaging service also means adapting to the needs of others, not because we are trying to corner the market, meet an arbitrary quota, or win people over; those may be by-products, but because people inherently deserve to be heard. The idea of “deserving to being heard” leads us directly to value two; Respect.
Respect is simply honoring others (It is hard to tell through the written word, but my facial expression, while typing “simply,” implies that it is not, in fact, simple). If you look around today, you may not see a great deal of respect. It is, for some reason, seen as something to be earned, or at least that is what I learned growing up. Respect is often reserved for those older, “more” educated, more affluent, and rarely for those younger, “less” educated, and poor. As long as there is a tier system for respect, humanity will suffer from division. I realize I am way out of my league here and am most definitely diving into a different topic, but respect is an integral part of who Life Touch Hospice is. Life Touch Hospice’s mission is to Honor Every Moment of life for every life under our care. Whether our patient spent the previous night on the street or if they came from an ivory tower makes no difference as far as our responsibility is concerned. Part of our “why” is respecting and honoring each moment of life, and that will never change from person to person. I should probably get to the next value before the one person still reading this gives up. Thank you, one person, by the way.
Respect is getting a second paragraph. Didn’t see that coming did you? Me neither actually; I didn’t plan this out. I probably shouldn’t admit that, but oh well, we must be family if you’ve made it this far. Respect comes from within and does not rely on any action or lack of action by the other party. Once respect hinges on the behavior of another person, we must examine ourselves to find what the source of our respect is. This internal origin extends to love, grace, forgiveness, peace, and an incredibly long list of other attributes, or fruits. If you rely on the actions of others to gauge the level of respect, love, grace, etc. that you give; you will forever be indebted to the efforts of others. Living in that mindset does not result in a happy life. Take it from me, and please ignore the fact that I am now 27, wrote most of this when I was 24, and look like I am 12. Boom. Moving on.
Excellence, or value number three, is based on the idea of exceeding expectations. I love this one. In a culture of mediocrity, the value of excellence is a shining knight. The knight swoops in to save the day from evil, i.e., mediocrity, apathy, lethargy, etc. If I were a better writer, I would eloquently (or is it articulately?) express that exceeding expectation is intrinsically tied to the character of the provider and is independent of the recipient while meeting expectations is dependent upon the recipient deeming the service satisfactory. If you are in the business of meeting expectations, get out; it does not end well. Now that I’ve butchered that, we can move on.
Value four is fostering relationships, or in a word, collaboration. After applying the previous three values, collaboration naturally emerges. When you care about what you do and the people you serve, you will realize that you must reach past yourself to serve more effectively. As the adage goes, “two heads are better than one, unless those heads are trying to figure out which one is smarter.” I may have added the last clause, but you know what I mean. If we want to grow, learn, increase our capacity to love and serve, and reach more people, we must collaborate. Relationships, as the name suggests, are partnerships. Collaboration does not mean that there is no leader; in fact, things operate better with the right leader, but that all are valued, heard, and treated with respect. I am thankful for our leaders at Life Touch Hospice and SHARE Foundation.
Lastly, but not leastly, is the value of stewardship. Stewardship might not have the pop of excellence or the relevance of collaboration, but it is a vital part of a successful organization. Managing resources is about taking those previous four values and doing the right things with them. Please note that resources do not just mean money; it is every piece of the whole. People are often the most underrated and abused resource. When you work for a company that stewards its employees well, it makes a radically positive difference. A person or organization can have money, excellent market conditions, support, and even collaboration, but unless they steward their resources well, everything will fall apart. (Insert analogy about having all the right pieces and nothing to hold them together.)
Now that I have said all that, let me get to the real point. Only kidding, this is the final paragraph, I promise. I hope this has, in some way, shined a light on our values and our “why.” I want people to know that Life Touch Hospice is about more than a service or a building. Hospice care is the way we have chosen to carry out our “why.” We utterly and profoundly love people. We want to take care of people in a uniquely challenging time. We want to see families, patients, and loved ones supported, respected, and surrounded with love and dignity. We want to help, and we are available all day, every day. Just give us a call.
P.S. Thank you, one person, for reading this. And if by some miracle, more than one of you made it this far, thank you so much. I sincerely hope you found truth in these words and that it benefits your life. God bless.
P.P.S. Oh, and I do realize leastly is not a word. Thank you, though.