Finding peace in the faces of others

Hospitals can be confusing and frightening places. My wife and I spent the better part of a day there recently because our five-year-old daughter tore her cheek open on a door handle. A horrific experience for all of us.

When they put her under, we were asked to leave the room while they stitched her up. For anyone with young children you will know that putting a child under is a frightening experience, mostly because they are obliged to inform you of the risks, no matter how remote n

So, my wife and I found ourselves sitting in a stark hallway, anxiously waiting to be told it was done. When the doctor came to tell us all was well, we breathed a sigh of relief. When a nurse came by and told the doctor

we need you back in number four

– that was our daughter’s room – that breath was punched out of us.

I found myself looking to the nurses and other staff going in and out of the room for cues. When someone ran or looked stressed, I clenched. Then, when I saw the nurses casually chatting and leaning on a desk, I began to breath again. I do the same thing on airplanes. When we hit turbulence, my gaze locks onto to the flight attendant to see if he or she looks stressed.

It’s amazing how much we rely on social cues to get us through. How much we – even unconsciously – we depend on the experience of others. Without them, we would be completely alone. There is a darker side of this, It’s called mob mentality. But, I think, more often it serves us well.

There are those who can’t read these cues, for a number of reasons. How very on their own they must feel.

My daughter was fine. She was taking longer to wake up than they liked and eventually we were allowed in to wait with her, so ours would be the faces she woke up to. Sitting there holding her hand, it was an anxious time. But a smiling ER attendant named Jeff, who did not seem concerned at all helped reassure me.

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