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Aretha sang about it. Parents admonish children to show it. Husbands and wives are told in the Bible to have it for one another. Rodney Dangerfield just couldn’t get any. And, all too often, neither does the consumer/patient in a healthcare system geared toward viewing patients as a run-down vehicle coming in for tune-ups or a broken-down vehicle needing diagnostics to reveal parts broken and in need of repair or removal. If we were simply a frame holding in parts, this might work, but we are so much more.

We think. We feel. Our body physically reacts to what we think and feel, to what we eat, what we do, to our surroundings – what others are thinking and feeling and eating and doing. We are marvelously complex creatures, created by a Creator who desires to interact with us. A health care system aimed at reducing us to images created by ionizing radiation, powerful magnets, sound waves, or the content of drops of blood or urine is a health care system desperately in need of reform.

And reform is exactly what happens when people begin seeking complementary care physicians, midwives, nutritionists, herbalists, body-work specialists, and so on in their quest for respect. The person with gallstones does not want to be viewed as the “gallbladder” in room 555. We may not mind when our pain is severe and relief is the only thing present in our mind. Yet there is this sense of dissatisfaction accompanying our healing process when we only receive a list of foods we can no longer enjoy, some wound care instructions, and a paper indicating when we should follow up with our primary care doctor.

There is little room for explanations on how health changes affect our lives, or support as we navigate those changes, or how we might respond differently than others to certain therapies or medications. And this is the place mutual respect is most needed. A caregiver can only be as good as the listening ear that values the information being shared so appropriate tests may be ordered or appropriate therapies might be recommended or prescribed.

This is where complementary health care providers shine. The very lack of availability for some of all the diagnostic bells and whistles causes observations skills to be honed, ears to be finely attuned to what is being said verbally, physically…and not said, and compassion to be poured out in time and resources, building an ongoing healthcare relationship of mutual respect for what each bring to the table when visiting.

See this in the skilled midwife in the family home with a laboring mama and her family. Without the routines of elaborate monitoring systems and trails of paper, frequent vaginal exams to “see where you’re at” and ultrasounds to check malpresentations, she observes mama, she listens to what she says and what she cannot put into words, and she responds to mama’s needs, allowing mama to make her choices, giving guidance when asked, and exults in her role of being given the honor to be there with mama while mama gives birth to her child. And all this as safe, or safer, for mom and baby than the mechanistic U.S. maternity system.

See this in the skilled herbalist with a client who wants to take charge of their own healthcare. Without the routines of slam-bam, thank you ma’am ten minutes or less office visits or elaborate, and expensive, diagnostic tests, she takes a long – and sometimes laborious – health and diet history, observes her client, listens with ears finely attuned to what the client says and what they cannot put into words, and responds with education as to standard conventional treatment options and complementary health support, discussing risk versus benefit, allowing the client to make her choices and to own the responsibility for those choices, pouring out compassion and support for the client’s choices, building an ongoing healthcare relationship that weaves the conventional with the complementary to meet client needs.

We were made in a Three-in-One image, in the very image of communal respect for the attributes and roles of the others. We don’t have to understand it; we do need to imitate it - in our homes, in the Church, in our friendships, in our work, in our health care provider relationships.

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