Going viral: A day without complaints brings personal discoveries

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James M. Berklan
James M. Berklan

Writers are expected to promote their work virtually any way they can, especially blog posts like this. But I'll admit maybe this one isn't for you. After all, you're likely working in or around the long-term care profession and if that doesn't give reason to complain, I don't know what does.

You deal largely with older, frail people. Most, if not all, have seen their best days. Yet often you're left defending why these people aren't healthier, even if the reason is Mother Nature, Father Time or some other familial connection.

You get yelled at, told off, put down and dumped on regularly, and that's during good weeks. Uncle Sam and other regulatory entities want more from you yet don't want to pay more for the increased demands. Residents' families usually don't appreciate the sensitive, hands-on care you provide.

Yet you're supposed to take it, and not complain.

It's no coincidence that a long-term care convention exhibitor last fall had specially made ribbons with “No BWMG” on them. (That would stand for “No bitching, whining, moaning or groaning,” of course.) The ribbons flew off his table into eager hands.

That's why you might not think this is for you. But I urge you to read on and see why it is.

I'm talking about a movement that is on the doorstep of going viral: The No Complaints Day Challenge. Its first rendition is in full bloom as I write this on Tuesday.

The campaign is the brainchild of a Chicago-area man, Joe Kirin, who simply pondered: What would it be like if people didn't complain for a day? How much better would this world be, and how much better would personal outlooks and attitudes become?

More than 5,000 people had taken up this grassroots challenge as of this writing. No doubt the number is higher by now, as well it should be. (See a TV news segment on this here.)

Participants in the 24-hour event had left scores of comments about their involvement by midday. Many applauded the simplicity of it, some wondered if they could rise to the challenge. Others mocked their own likely lapses. Mostly, comments were introspective and tinged with self-castigation for even having to wonder if they could go a day without complaining.

Perfect, as far as Kirin is concerned.

His “game,” as he calls it (to lessen any intimidation factor), is not an all-or-nothing gambit. If someone slips and complains, he or she has full license to hit “replay” and take as many do-overs as needed.

It's all about erasing negativity and creating more good will among people. It was a challenge made infinitely more intriguing by coincidence Tuesday, as the Internet, Twittersphere and lunch tables around the world exploded with rueful memories and somber self-examinations on the day after comedic giant Robin Williams was found dead of apparent suicide at age 63.

Bad day at work? Lousy weather? Your sports team lost again?

“What if complaining wasn't an option? What would people do? What would they say?” Kirin poses. It's a personal challenge that many have trouble even contemplating.

Plans for the big day began just a few months ago, after Kirin's mother, Marion Kirin, died. She faced multiple health challenges toward the end, but always with courage and grace. Aug. 12 — Tuesday — would have been her 82nd birthday.

“What really inspired me about my mother is while she was sick in January, February, March … in all that time, all the setbacks, all the disappointments, no matter what the doctor threw at her, she never complained about it,” Kirin explains. “She just kept on going right on to the end. I thought this could be a great event to honor her and keep her spirit alive.”

Mission accomplished on that count. Thanks to the Internet and Facebook, people from Australia to the United Kingdom, to Iran, Israel and numerous other countries took part in Tuesday's challenge. The final tabulations won't be known for some time — and perhaps never will be if the movement maintains momentum.

While the genesis of the campaign might have been personal for Kirin, its ultimate effect already is far more reaching.

This movement surely must expand beyond a once-every-365-day event. It's a great start, but at some point, enough people are going to cast sideways glances at one another and sheepishly ask why “No Complaints Day” can't be observed at least monthly, if not weekly. For a society that becomes giddy every seven days for "Throwback Thursday" on Facebook, it doesn't seem like too much of a stretch.

“I think people might even discover that what they were complaining about they no longer have to complain about,” Kirin says. “It could wind up being a less stressful day for people.

“Or you might even do some thinking and think, ‘Wow, I could actually solve that problem.' It's really a day of discovery for yourself.”

An incredibly worthy goal, no matter what your line of work or station in life is.

James M. Berklan is McKnight's Editor. Follow him @LTCEditorsDesk.

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editor's Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor on Monday and Friday; Staff Writer Tim Mullaney on Tuesday, Editor James M. Berklan on Wednesday and Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman on Thursday.

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