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The Sweetest Season

 In the late 1970s I was Medical Director of the Marco Polo Rest Home in East Boston.  Anxious to improve the health (as I saw it) of the residents, I contracted with Quebrada Bakery (which coincidentally now lies down the street from my office).  Twice a week, they would deliver whole grain bread to the mostly elderly residents, who had previously dined on mass-produced white bread.  I was very proud of myself and I thought that I had done a good thing increasing the nutritional value of my patients’ diet.Boy was I naïve.  A mile or two from the site of the Boston Tea Party, a new revolution ensued.  The rest home staff, convinced that I was torturing the residents for unknown reasons, began to smuggle white bread into the kitchen and parcel it out to the willing residents behind my back.  To them, raised in good Italian families where bread is a sacrament, the chewy, dark and unfamiliar dry slabs that I had foisted upon the residents were depriving them of one of their few remaining pleasures.

I tell the story because of a current dilemma.  It’s the holiday season, and my office is graced with many patients who have felt cared for by us throughout the past year, and wish to reciprocate.  More often than not the manner of reciprocation involves candy, cookies, cakes, and sweets too numerous to list here.  The outpouring of affection has been overwhelming, and deeply appreciated.  It has also raised an interesting question for us as an office.

Because, we are not just an office, we’re an office based on the concept of healthy choices leading to healthy minds, bodies and spirits.  In that light, how can we expect our patients to follow our health suggestions and dietary advice, when our staff room is piled high with Lindt balls and homemade brownies?  And yet, how rude is it to spurn someone’s gesture of love and kindness by judging it negatively?

And what of my staff ?  While some employees maintain holistic lifestyles themselves, others are working at WholeHealth New England because it’s interesting, or it’s the best job available, or it’s providing an entry into a possible healthcare career.  (Sadly, it’s probably not the pay scale.) Is it fair to make judgments for them about how our patients should or should not show them gratitude?

I’m not sure we have found a resolution, although we have gently suggested other less caloric ways of showing appreciation.  I really do struggle with how much of a model of health we should be providing as an office, and how much I should be providing personally.  I also struggle with whether we should be modeling a “greener” office, in keeping with the health of our planet.  I hope to make that the subject of future blog entries.  I can’t answer these questions now, though, I’ve had one too many Godiva dark chocolate truffles to be thinking straight.

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