At least three times in my life after I had spoken to other people about my devotion to God, a short time later the higher level challenged me to see whether my actions matched my words. That’s not to say that the higher power was an impartial observer during my “trial,” but that it guided me, as you’ll discover.
The following is a description of one such event:
The Lady and Her Daughter
After Helene and I divorced (she’s still my most loved friend; we speak almost every day), I felt the need to leave Philadelphia. A job offer landed me in Memphis, a town that had always intrigued me because of its location on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River immortalized by Mark Twain.
I worked for a national drug store chain as a pharmacist, and my shifts rotated among a number of stores. In one of those stores, I befriended one of the assistant managers. He was a church deacon and the person I gave the keys of the pharmacy to when I checked out from my shift.
On one occasion when I entered his office, after I had given him the keys, I showed him the receipt for the items I had purchased. He said that I didn’t need to do that because he trusted me. That encouraged me to say that I would never take anything from the company because I think of it as a god, a lowercase god. I felt the need to explain, to qualify my statement. I said that if ethics were involved, the uppercase god would prevail over the lowercase god, come what may. He understood, and shortly after that, I left his office.
I need to provide some information to set the stage for the unusual event that happened a short time later. What I will describe will have you see that by choosing to follow the uppercase God, I was placing myself in a vulnerable position. To start, every prescription in the pharmacy that’s dropped off by a customer or phoned in or emailed in is scanned electronically, given a number that is one higher than the prescription that preceded it, and time-stamped. The prescription is filled by one of the techs who then pass it to the pharmacist, who checks that the prescription is filled correctly, at which point the pharmacist clicks ok on their computer screen, which is also time stamped. That procedure makes it possible to trace any errors made in filling prescriptions since everyone in the pharmacy signs off using their unique signature.
But one of the main purposes of the time-stamping is to determine “wait-time,” the span of time between the prescription being initially time-stamped and the time it’s clicked ok by the pharmacist. Management wants to get patients in and out quickly so they can spend more time shopping in the store, and, more importantly, people don’t like waiting. Stores compete with each other to achieve the shortest wait-time. If your wait-time is high, you will hear about it from one of the managers. And wait-time is factored into yearly evaluations. Salary increases and one’s employment are based in part on that factor. While pharmacists were encouraged by their managers to respond to patients’ questions and concerns, we were instructed to be concise and brief.
Within two weeks of my declaration to the deacon, I was apparently being tested.
One afternoon, an attractive African-American woman in her mid-30s, wearing a tailored business suit, walked to the pass-through window, and handed me a prescription. “I’ll wait for it,” she said in a pleasant voice. I handed it to a tech, who would enter the prescription into the computer system. I began to work on another matter when the woman, addressing me directly, asked for my opinion of the medication that the doctor had prescribed for her daughter. It was Dilantin, a drug used to treat some forms of epilepsy. She said she doubted her daughter should be taking this kind of medication. It seemed that she knew about Dilantin.
My role as a pharmacist is not to question the judgment of doctors since I’m aware that the medications they prescribe are based on lab reports and physical observations to which I’m not privy. To overstep or intervene in a physician’s orders is not advised and could well open a pharmacist to legal liability—that is, unless you had a darn good reason to question the order. The earnestness I heard in the lady’s voice and the fact that she trusted me drew me in to hear what she had to say.
In a clear, measured voice, she said, “I need to tell you what happened this morning.” And she did in detail: My twelve-year-old daughter and my son, who is four—you know how boys that age can get; they can really try one’s nerves—well, he was being his worst with his sister. I saw what was going on and was about to walk into the room to whisk him away when I focused on my daughter and stopped in shock. Her fists were clenched and her body was rigid; her face was blank and without expression. She took a step toward her brother and collapsed, which never had happened before.
I ran over to my daughter, hugged her, and stroked her face. She was visibly trembling, but she was aware of me and responded positively to the attention I was giving her. My son sat on a nearby chair, watching us with interest. I called our family physician, said it was urgent that we see him. In fact, we just left his office.
“The doctor noted what happened and said, ‘This drug ought to help. Have her take it as directed on the prescription.’”
I faced the woman and said that I had to ask a number of questions that could be considered personal.
She responded, “Proceed as you see fit.”
I heard myself, as if from a distance, asking her, “Is your daughter close with her father?” (I knew the answer before she responded.)
She said, “My daughter wants her father’s attention, wants it very much. We’re divorced, and he seems intent on avoiding her.”
I said that was the core of the problem. Her father needed to spend more quality time with his daughter. But there was a more urgent matter that we needed to discuss, and I pointed to an enclosed waiting area, adjacent to the pharmacy. “I need to speak with you there, face-to-face.” I told the techs I would be conferring with the patient in the waiting area.
One tech said, “Your leaving will stop the workflow and give us all a bad wait time.”
I told them, “The wait time will be what it will be. This woman’s needs are more important.”
I sat next to the woman and said, “Your daughter is at a very vulnerable age, emotionally. She could, during a moment of being emotionally stressed, harm herself or her brother. It can all happen in a second. Your daughter’s body language during that incident with her brother indicates that she was essentially at a tipping point. She was exerting a monumental effort to hold back, to restrain herself. She wanted to stop her brother’s taunts at all costs. She wanted to fly at him in the very worst way. Her fainting was the only way to stop herself and prevent the assault. She probably identifies the pain her brother was causing her with the pain she feels when her father rejects her. Inwardly, your daughter is seething in anger. Remember her body language.”
The techs’ voices from the pharmacy were reminding me that I was stopping the workflow that would affect their wait time. I tuned that out. “Most importantly,” I added, “I suggest that your daughter visit a psychiatrist or psychologist who is aware of the dynamics I described. You need to interview them on the phone to see if they’re familiar with the patterns of behavior your daughter exhibited. This matter involves your daughter’s life.” She accepted my advice, we shook hands, and I returned to the pharmacy.
I believe that the Other Side had reached me with the knowledge of the relationship between the girl and her father. My fervent hope is that the daughter receives the love she needs from her father.