Commentary

North Idahoans must speak out against extremism, support one another with kindness

The medicine our community needs is to welcome people with open arms, accept new ideas, test things, make mistakes and grow stronger because of them, writes guest columnist Mike Baker.

December 16, 2021 4:12 am
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We must turn away from extremist political rhetoric that sows fear and division instead of inspiring people to work toward a brighter future., writes guest columnist Mike Baker. (Courtesy of Getty Images)

Health care providers often have the difficult task of telling their patients things they don’t want to hear.

It is never easy to tell a person with diabetes they need to change their diet and start exercising or face dire consequences. Sometimes the patient needs to hear the truth about their choices and what it means for them today and tomorrow. Simple changes now prevent catastrophic outcomes.

I may not be a doctor, but I am blessed with the opportunity to lead an organization that is fighting for the soul of our community every single day. I have seen the ravages of the times on our community, and I’m offering you a prescription; join Heritage Health in whatever way you can to help our community build immunity to negativity that threatens to overtake us all.

Whether as a patient, employee, or advocate, we have a place for you. We have a place that will offer you a better future as you help us improve our community.

If you don’t believe we have an illness that you need to fight, consider this:

How many of you have witnessed someone start yelling at the kid behind the counter at the pizza shop because there was a pineapple on their pizza? Or yelling at a medical assistant for wearing a mask while helping an elderly senior citizen back to an exam room? School board meetings, libraries and street corners have been filled with people screaming and yelling, using bully tactics that destroy more than they divide. It is hard to see your heart when you are screaming in my face. Kids are bullied on social media relentlessly where bullies hide in anonymity, doing nothing more than rip away any hope that might be left inside that child.

Our hearts ache for the family that discovers that their child has hurt themselves because they have been bullied or harassed simply because of who they love, the color of their skin or what they believe. Kids that are different don’t feel safe, and it is hurting all of us. We are seeing amazing families fleeing our community because they don’t see a way forward that is safe for their future. This is so sad. We need to do better.

If these circumstances haven’t yet touched you or someone you love, it is only a matter of time.

This sickness needs to stop because it is destroying the soul of our community. I know that most people in North Idaho are reasonable, compassionate, and kind. We agree on so much more than we think. Most of us just want to live in a safe community with clean air and water, have a decent job, send our kids to schools where they can prepare for a better future than we have today.

The medicine our community needs is to welcome people with open arms, accept new ideas, test things, make mistakes and grow stronger because of them. Our eyes are on the future, not the past. Every day is a new opportunity to be a little better than the day before. Just imagine what we could accomplish if we lived our lives this way. It would be incredible.

The medicine we need requires us to remember that it is OK to have a different opinion, and that freedom depends on rigorous, respectful debate. I invite you to bring your ideas on how to solve a problem to a productive table and work together with people instead of standing in the cheap seats vilifying the poor volunteers who put their lives on hold to serve our community. Listen more than you speak, and wisdom can prevail. We must turn away from extremist political rhetoric that sows fear and division instead of inspiring people to work toward a brighter future.

We have a choice to either allow love, respect and hope to thrive in our community or to let darkness destroy us. Health care organizations can lead in the community and shape our future by what we allow to grow in our midst. We battle darkness and fear by providing hope, inspiring change and extending life so that those we serve can help us build a stronger, safer community.

We are far from perfect, but we learn from our mistakes, and we see an opportunity to be a light and a beacon for our community. Everyone deserves access to high quality health care, regardless of personal beliefs. We are all humans trying to do our best to make it in this world. You are welcome here.

We treat everyone with respect and kindness, and all we ask is that you treat us the same way.

We have room for different ideas, we respect and value true freedom that lifts others and moves us to a better place. Our future depends on all of us learning these lessons and turning toward the light this holiday season and to invite those around us to feel its warmth as well.

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Mike Baker
Mike Baker

Mike Baker is the CEO of Heritage Health, a network of community clinics serving North Idaho. He lives with his family in Coeur d'Alene.

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