Fairly often, besides the deliberate rounding to the patients that happens, I come across a client or family that wants to voice a concern, make a suggestion or share a comment about something that they found really important. It might have been the fantastic Clam Chowder that they had or just a mention of the way they enjoyed a catered event. Generally, the feedback is very positive.
Being at a facility for 10 years has exposed me to many ‘like’ situations. I can almost predict, with reasonable accuracy, the request that a customer is about to make based on their facial expressions and body language. It’s sort of a private mental diversion I silently challenge myself with while taking care of their needs.
There are customers that have made working here a true blessing. For example, a particular elderly gentleman that came in every month with his wife while she received chemotherapy would stop by my office religiously. He always had an old, brown paper grocery sack that had been used for many trips to the hospital, clutched tightly in one hand while he extended the other out to greet me. He is the perfect picture of someone’s grandfather, his wrinkled overalls, worn pale on the knees – probably as old as the paper sack, fitted over his plaid collared shirt which was always pressed and starched.
“I’m back with the Misses,” he’d say, “Got to get her some more of that great soup Vern!” It was never Chef Vern or Chef and I really felt closer to him for that reason.
I’d walk him out to the line and chat with him for a few minutes. We’d talk about the Red Sox (as I’m from the East coast) or his trip to Poland (years ago) - as he knew my wife was from Poland. He’d mention how his wife was from Italy and ask me of how my possible plans to go to Europe were coming along as he dipped up his soup to take home.
His face would just make you smile and his easy going nature reminded me of a character from a Norman Rockwell painting, a pleasant, rosy-cheeked elderly farmer, full of patience and a pile of awesome stories contained in the twinkle of his eye.
For years, he’s come in for the soup even after his wife lost her battle. Like clock work – he wears the same bright cheery smile and we go through a very similar conversation, with a few tweaks here and there now that she was gone.
He arrived one day to find that the soup rotation had changed. We didn’t have the same line up of his favorites. I started to apologize for his inconvenience and to tell him I’d have his favorites the next time he came in, but he stopped me in mid-sentence, shook my hand and said: “It isn’t the way you season your soups Vern that keeps me coming in – it’s the way I’m made to feel when I come here.”
His humbling remarks reminded me that we aren’t just a collection of services, concepts, food & equipment, but a place made up of people. Our home away from home.
Executive Chef, Saint Alphonsus RMC