Adults behaving badly

In what appeared to be one its last actions before closing down in the fact of stampeding Vandals, the White House Office on Partnerships posted an article about “the Memphis Model” on its website. The Vandals thundered past to no affect, but may return at the walls next week, so you might go quickly to http://www.hhs.gov/fbci/resources/newsletter/040711.html#feature
to read the brief piece by Mara Vanderslice.

You’ve read the basics here before: hundreds of congregations connected to the big three faith-based treatment systems (Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare, Church Health Center and Christ Community Health Services) and pretty much anyone in town that wants to partner.

This would seem to be a fragile model for such wild oscillations in public policy. I could fill pages with simply lists of fundamental variables affecting the choices of all institutions involved. Given our 330 covenant congregations and these 3 key partners, there are at least 333 long lists of unknowns with big upsides and downsides that raise uncertainty to the 333rd power.

So we do the best we can on most days to consider the limits of what is possible to imagine and try to move that way with whoever we can do so that day. We try to respect each other and expect the best of all involved, and we are usually right. It is not pretty, but real.

However, we are not naive. We do not expect all the adults to behave well or to be able to keep to their best intentions, sometimes not even to keep their promises. In other words, it fits the times in DC and Memphis.

We muddle, which is what is possible for humans to do in complex and uncertain times. But we muddle while talking constantly to each other, making every incremental good choice we possibly can. It is not all that might be possible in the abstract, but all that are possible on this small and wild planet.

Sometimes the stars offer up an opportunity to move in big leaps. We are considering trying to become a model city for application of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement “triple aim.” But that model seems to think that we could and should get all the powerful and smart people to agree, first, then act. The “memphis model” that appeals to the White House is more untidy and yet more ambitious. The heart of the Memphis model is to take advantage of every opportunity to bend the arc of justice in the right direction. It might work. And it might not. We continuously improve our aim and never give up.

In a week when we are told to be grateful our government employees are even going to be allowed to come to work, that seems pretty good.

– Posted on the journey

About garygunderson

Vice President, Faith Health, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC. Author, Leading Causes of Life, Deeply Woven Roots, Boundary Leaders and Religion and the Heath of the Public. Secretary, Stakeholder Health (Health Systems Learning Group).
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