Context: The Line Between Human and Bureaucrat

At one of our Family Focus training sessions earlier in the year, I found myself unsure about whether I was repeating an idea that I might have already spoken on many weeks earlier (the trainings are a long fourteen straight weeks, excluding holidays, hurricanes, and so forth.) One of the group members pointed out to me that there was nothing wrong with that as repetition is one time-proven way of learning.  Sounds good to me.

And as I have noted in the blog before, one of the inherent risks of writing a blog is repeating oneself over time.  I know no reasonable way of avoiding that over the course of years so I leave it to the reader to decide when they’ve read all that I have to say and the repetition is getting out of hand.  In the meantime, I blog…..

A continuing theme of the blog has been the damage caused by bureaucrats who misunderstand that following procedures and applying rules should not be robotic.  Computers are robotic. Either you give them what they want, the exact way they want it, or you go nowhere.  If the computer form, for whatever reason, does not accept periods in one’s name then you don’t enter on the form your middle initial with a period after it.  If the computer wants your birthday in this ridiculous form: mm/dd/yyyy, then good luck writing 9/3/50 on it.  You will go nowhere till you do it the computer way.

Humans though are not computers and shouldn’t act like them.  We all have millions of examples of humans that don’t get that (I was up at the Social Security office yesterday e.g.).  What a breath of fresh air then to find folks on the other end who listen and respond as human beings and not robots.

Two stories:

1. My grandsonson has insulin dependent diabetes. He recently got suspended from school and sent to the temporary school for the “bad boys and girls.” What I call “doy-doy” school. At this school, there is no resident nurse, simply an on-call one.  There was concern about this by the higher-up medical folks in the district who wanted me to get permission for him to attend by his endocrinologist . That doctor of course wouldn’t/couldn’t speak to his behavior impacting the diabetes etc. etc..  CATCH-22.  I responded to the head nurse that an on-call nurse was far beyond anything I had at home and my grandsonson was allowed to go out and about the neighborhood, the malls, the stores, by himself. He was an expert on his diabetes and I was not taking extraordinary risks with him in allowing this. Indeed, he was safer at school with an on-call nurse then he was at home, with no nurse. In addition, I would never be more than 15 minutes away because I had to pick him up each day anyway.  Her response? “Good point. I’ll double check with the head doctor, but in the meantime, send him to school.” A human response (but it felt like a small miracle.)

2. Folks with criminal records – 65 million Americans now, according to last Tuesday’s NY Times* – have a terrible time with job applications.  Some want to know if you were ever arrested; some, if you were ever convicted.  Some go back forever, some only go back seven years.  Offenders, often more desperate for jobs then the regular unemployed, have to decide whether to risk lying or risk being automatically rejected for having a record.  This past week, an ex-con I call my nephew, got hired for a perfect job – four miles from home, full time, decent hourly wage, paid holidays, vacation etc. (Remember when those were normal jobs?) When the background check came back, however, the job offer was rescinded.  It turned out not to be his history that brought this on, but rather that he’d lied on the application.  He does that so automatically – right or wrong – that he didn’t even remember that he’d done it.  He was devastated by the rescinding of the offer. So I wrote a letter to the company giving context (as I’d done with the nurse in the first story) and asking them to reconsider. Not wanting someone else to be hired in his place, I emailed the letter over so it got there the very next morning before the company opened for the day.

The personnel person called me immediately.  Human. We talked. Human. She promised to go to her higher ups. Human.  And within hours, the job rescindment was rescinded.  Human – and miraculous – still again.

Our lives are lived in context.  Bureaucrats don’t get that.  Humans do.  Are there human bureaucrats?  Yes, of course.  They are called responsible adults.





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