Hummel column: White, black and 3 other colors

Lynn Hummel column mug
Lynn Hummel

If you don’t appreciate reading that BLACK LIVES MATTER, you may not appreciate this either, so read on only if you willingly risk the aggravation.

Last week I spent two days in our local Detroit Lakes hospital (nothing too serious) and I thought I’d share some observations.

In two short days, I was attended by people of five different colors: white, black, red (Native American), light brown (from India), and dark brown (from Peru). They irritated me with wake ups at all hours of the night to get my “vitals” – temperature, blood pressure, oxygen level, blood samples (with needles of course) and generally kept me from getting a good night’s sleep or much rest.

But aside from the discomfort of those irritations, here’s what I noticed. I start out with the attitude that I don’t really care how much these medical people know, I just want to know how much they care.

All five, without exception, really cared. They looked me in the eye, answered my questions, explained procedures, were sensitive and tender in their touch, told about themselves, chuckled at my smart-aleck remarks and generally treated me like a neighbor or a friend.


Who were these people? All five were Americans, local residents who had worked hard to get the training for an important job. All five were dedicated professionals with husbands, boyfriends, wives and kids. They weren’t foreigners taking American jobs. I didn’t feel like a car in a shop with some mechanic fixing my carburetor or adjusting my brakes, I felt like I was being attended by folks with a mission to comfort and heal. I was a fellow human being with feelings and emotions.

When I was a boy going to school, there were only two colors in my grade, red and white. One red and all the rest white. The girl with the red skin played in the band, was a class leader and everybody’s friend. We didn’t notice she was a Sioux, we noticed she was noisy and fun. Still is. If she irritated us, we couldn’t tell her to go back where she came from, because her people were here first and the white pioneers pushed them aside and took their land.

That was a long time ago in Garrison, North Dakota. Garrison may not have changed much since then, but America has. We have more minorities now, more people “of color” and more opportunities to get uncomfortable with somebody who doesn’t look like us. That change is going to keep happening and we have a choice of resenting and resisting or accommodating.

More and more we are going to need dedicated people in our hospitals and in our band as well as throughout our communities. We need to welcome them and treat them as neighbors or keep sticking our heads and hearts in the sand.

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