The Three-Second Rule


Have you heard of The Three-Second Rule?

I used to think that The Three-Second Rule states that if you drop food on the floor but retrieve it in UNDER THREE SECONDS the food can still be eaten without even a smitch of worry.

That's what I thought The Three-Second Rule was. Until I met Head Nurse. ------ I was visiting the dementia ward of an assisted living facility, and Awesome Head Nurse was explaining to me some of the practices her team uses to help patients who become agitated.

Folding clothes, for instance. Some of Head Nurse's distressed residents calm down when a staff member brings them a basket of clothes, asking for “help” with folding.

(Understand, these are not clothes or towels that the facility needs. Head Nurse has purchased, from the local Dollar Store, as many items-to-fold as her modest monthly allotment will allow, and these items are folded over and over.)

My heart lurched, just a bit, as I listened to Janice and Betty -- Janice with slippers on her feet, and Betty with slightly messy hair -- folding washcloths together on the sofa, chatting gaily about "the other chores" they needed to do before their husbands returned from work, hungry for supper.

Head Nurse raised an index finger and pointed to a painting across the room.

“Do you see that painting?” she asked.

“Yes,” I answered obediently.

(It was a very large, very beautiful oil painting of a garden-in-bloom.)

“You and I see that painting, and we'll remember it as that painting on that wall," Head Nurse said. "But some of my residents will not."

She paused.

"So sometimes, when a resident is hitting, or upset, we take her by the hand, lead her to that picture and say, ‘Look at this! Isn’t it beautiful?’ And she stops hitting and gazes at the picture instead. And we talk about how beautiful it is. She becomes calm again, and we can help her find something to do.”

I stood mute, listening carefully.

Head Nurse said, “It’s The Three-Second Rule."

To my puzzled look she responded, gently, “They forget the painting three seconds later.”

She sighed softly, then gave her head a little shake and continued brightly,

"But we don’t forget, so we point it out to them often, and it helps them.”

With that, Head Nurse left me to help Miss Emma prepare the table for lunch.

And I... I stayed for awhile. And in the staying, I saw Jesus practicing The Three-Second Rule. Oh, His name was Sherryl and Emma and Joyce. But it was Jesus, all the same.

Offering Miss Josephine some laundry to fold. Gently clasping the hand Miss Rose was using to hit Mr. Frank and guiding her across the room to see the beautiful painting instead.

And it occurs to me...

Sometimes we lose our way too, don't we? We forget Who We Really Are, and where Our Home is. And in the forgetting, we become afraid and anxious and angry. Sometimes we even strike out at others.

And our Jesus simply takes us by the hand, (over and over and over again) and re-directs us.


As you go about your business this coming week, in a world filled with Some Who Remember but Many Who Forget --

Can YOU be Head Nurse? Or Miss Emma or Sherryl or Joyce?

If you see someone who has lost her way, someone who has forgotten Who She Is  --

Can you remember for her?

Can you ask her to join you in doing something useful?

Can you take her gently by the hand and ask her to see Something Beautiful?

Can you remember that SOMETIMES the Something Beautiful she most needs to see is HERSELF the way Jesus sees her?


Can you help HIM help her?

Please say yes. Good nurses are so needed these days.