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How do we create joy for others and for ourselves? Join host Steph Bayer in a radiant conversation with Corporal Eric Hudson, an officer who has been with the Cleveland Clinic Police Department for 20 years. In this episode bursting with energy, Corporal Hudson shares what inspires him to shake out dance moves on the crosswalk, empathize with patients and fellow caregivers, and brighten the lives of the people around him.

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Grooving to the 80's on 89th Street

Podcast Transcript

Steph Bayer: Welcome to another episode of Studies in Empathy, a Cleveland Clinic podcast exploring empathy and patient experience. I'm your host, Steph Bayer, senior director of the Office of Patient Experience here at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. And I'm very pleased to have with me today Corporal Eric Hudson. Corporal Hudson, welcome to Studies in Empathy.

Eric Hudson: What's up? What's up? We here. Baby, I've made it. Let's go. Let's go.

Steph Bayer: Corporal Hudson's a police officer here at the Cleveland Clinic Police Department. He's recently gone viral for your enthusiastic approach to traffic control, and we're going to talk more about that in just a second. But you bring a lot of joy to your job and it's an honor to have you sit down with us today and talk. First question, Corporal Hudson, can you tell me a little bit about your background and how you came to be part of our police department?

Eric Hudson: My background, I come from the Glenville community, single family household. Still live in my community. Growing up in the inner city, doing knucklehead stuff. I ain't going to say that's what teenagers do, but I was doing a lot of things that I didn't have no business doing. But you can't let where you come from dictate where you got to be. Changed my mentality. One day, "I need to go to police academy." Running, dealing with the police in a negative way, but I knew I had to change my life.

Steph Bayer: Wow.

Eric Hudson: Signed up Cleveland Heights Police Academy back in 2003, and Cleveland Clinic hired me right out of the academy and the rest is history. This is where we at now.

Steph Bayer: You've been here 20 years.

Eric Hudson: 20 years. 20 years.

Steph Bayer: That's amazing.

Eric Hudson: Yes, ma'am.

Steph Bayer: And I love that you decided, having seen the other side of it, that you were going to embrace the joy, the positive part, because that's what you do every day.

Eric Hudson: Yes, yes.

Steph Bayer: We were just chatting about some of the work you're doing because you're a supervisor, you've been here 20 years.

Eric Hudson: Yes.

Steph Bayer: Someone at your level isn't ordinarily directing traffic and overseeing crosswalks.

Eric Hudson: No, no.

Steph Bayer: Talk to us about how you took on that role.

Eric Hudson: It came during the time, that was back in November. We got traffic control officers who designated to do strictly traffic, but we were short of them. We ain't have that many. And if we don't have a traffic control officer, we got to sign a police officer. And police officers, they like, "Nah man, it's cold. I ain't."

Steph Bayer: No one wants that job.

Eric Hudson: "Nah, uh-uh. I can't do it. I ain't about that life." I'm sitting there. We were in mid-pandemic pandemonium at the same time. That's never happened. That never ever happened. Dealing with all that is just compound.

Steph Bayer: Sure.

Eric Hudson: But me, I know I got a bubbly sense of humor, so I'm like, "You know what, I'm going to go out traffic. I like to socialize. I like my caregivers. I'm going to go out to 89th Street." And I went out there and the first day I went out there, I remember, "Good morning, how you doing? We starting off energetic, not pathetic. Before you step into the clinic, you better eat that spinach." I'm out there rhyming, I'm going in on them and they vibing with me. That day, the next day I said, "You know what, I'm going to bring my JBL Bluetooth speaker, turn the music on. The music is, that's what gets you going. Yeah. That's what gets you going."

Steph Bayer: It is, and you're outside an employee garage helping that crosswalk. This is not our vulnerable patients that are stressed out. These are people that are going to care for those patients.

Eric Hudson: That's right. That's right. And the thing is, being out there and seeing how they gravitated to the music and to the vibe, putting smiles on people's face and the way the community, not just the caregivers, but the community embrace it, because us as caregivers, especially police officers, nurses, I don't care. EVS, everybody, we all in this together, one team. We got so used to taking care of everybody else, we forget about ourselves.

Steph Bayer: That's so true.

Eric Hudson: We forget about to say good morning to ourselves, how you doing? What you doing? How you doing when you're coming in? Because you'll be surprised what we taking on before we come into the hospital and we got to try to take care, a caregiver, or talk to somebody correct. And we don't know what that person carrying, bringing in at home, coming to work or taking it home. Me, I wanted to give them that juice because I need it. And just giving that vibe, saying good morning, making people day and seeing people smile, that's priceless.

Steph Bayer: And I love that because emotions are contagious. When you bring the negative, you're going to get the negative. But when you flip that script and you're bringing it, you're also getting it back.

Eric Hudson: Yeah, and that's what I tell them when you hit the streets, speak, we got to get that. I want to reciprocate that same energy, that same vibe. And that day, I brought that Bluetooth and I turned that music on. I told them caregivers, "We going to take the world over from 89th Street. We are going to be the most known crosswalk in the world." A week later we was on the side of Times Square.

Steph Bayer: Was it a week later that the Today Show had picked up the story?

Eric Hudson: Yeah, it was on the side of Times Square and then it went from there. Cassandra, a nurse named Cassandra, she the one recorded it one night and when she recorded it, I'm like, "How did she... I never saw her." And then it hit Facebook and then somebody was like, "Tag this officer. Who is this officer?" After that, they tagged me and I was laughing like, "Okay." And by 12:00, it was gone. I got tagged on that post. Cassandra and them tagged me about 8:00, by 12:00 it was gone. You had celebrities tweeting it and then it was gone. It was gone. And that's when all the cameras started going. But you know what, it's amazing because I love the caregivers. I love to see the smiles. I love that vibe. It's just, I wouldn't trade it for the world and it's bigger than me. It's bigger than me now.

Steph Bayer: It is. And what I love, couple of thoughts. One, there's another, an actual crossing guard who has brought music now when she's at that stop. I think that your role modeling is being picked up by other caregivers, which is great to see. But the cameras aren't there every day and you're still, when you're there, volunteering for this role, months and months later, you're still showing up with the same energy and enthusiasm. The other day I was walking in and I was laughing to the people around me because you were directing traffic, but you were going to let the cars go through and someone jumped out of their car and started to shake it with you.

Eric Hudson: Yes, yes.

Steph Bayer: And I thought, "Well, how are we going to have any traffic flow if we're all dancing here?"

Eric Hudson: Oh my God. Yes.

Steph Bayer: And also, how joyful is that?

Eric Hudson: That's good. That's the vibe.

Steph Bayer: You're getting people jumping out their cars and shaking it.

Eric Hudson: Oh man, they rock. I had people jump out. I had one guy, he jumped out and it made me nervous. I put my hand out, "How you doing?" He smacked my hand down. Boom. He said, "I don't want a handshake. I need a hug."

Steph Bayer: Aw.

Eric Hudson: He said, "I need what you got on you." No telling what this person might have been going through, and he reached his breaking point. When you see people like that, genuine, that's come out there, I had nurses break down in my arms, doctors break down in my arms. People write me from all over the world like, "Thank you for this." And man, that's what it's about. That's why I tell people, when they ask me, it's not an end game. It's not what you doing when the camera's rolling, it's what you doing when the camera ain't rolling. I like it better when the cameras ain't rolling. I ain't going to lie. But we vibe even more. It's just amazing how it hit, and it's still going every time.

Steph Bayer: No, you're still out there.

Eric Hudson: It's still going.

Steph Bayer: Still volunteering the shift.

Eric Hudson: Yes. It's still going and I still get calls from the studio. CBS, they still calling me. They still showing stuff. They still asking me to do things. But it's amazing. It's amazing. And the thing about it, it's free. The energy is free. It don't hurt to say, "How you doing? Good morning."

Steph Bayer: Oh, isn't that a lesson?

Eric Hudson: Yes. And I got now you see, you got the transportation. Even the RTA, Cleveland Clinic, they bringing they buses. They bringing people over there to get that vibe, to get that energy. And they don't even live in the city. It hit the patients, hit the caregivers, it hit the community. Come on, man. You can't. Come on now.

Steph Bayer: Look what you started.

Eric Hudson: You can't. You can't. You can't.

Steph Bayer: Is there a song that gets you in the mood quickest?

Eric Hudson: I love my eighties.

Steph Bayer: Me too.

Eric Hudson: I'm telling you, ain't nothing like the eighties. Ain't nothing like a eighties. If I throw on some eighties songs, I mean, I can go from Bon Jovi to Earth Wind and Fire to Michael Jackson to... I love it. I like all bodies of music.

Steph Bayer: If I can put in some requests for some Whitney from the eighties, Whitney Houston, I'm all about it.

Eric Hudson: Whitney. Whitney.

Steph Bayer: Love it.

Eric Hudson: I'm on Wham, Duran Duran, Hall & Oates. Hit me Mister Mister, what it's like, you know what I'm saying? You know that's what I like. I like all bodies of music, but certain music, it just hit me. And when that grew, you can't stop it.

Steph Bayer: You can't stop the dance.

Eric Hudson: You can't stop it. You can't stop that dance. Now people vibing. That's the problem, people want, and you know you got people who be bumping like, "Come on." And look, they don't care. But you know what? They enjoying life.

Steph Bayer: And they're starting their day of caring for other people in that mood because.

Eric Hudson: They enjoying life. That's what it's about.

Steph Bayer: That walk from the parking garage to the workplace. It's different now.

Eric Hudson: Yeah, it's different. And then like I say, patients, visitors, they see me. They talk to me and they be like, "Man, thank you." I got patients who go to the Mellen Center. "Man, I was feeling a certain way, but when I saw you in that crosswalk, it just gave me hope." That energy sparks faith and faith can get you everywhere. But for that time, let's give them something. Let's give them something. Let's give them that spark to where we can uh. Then that faith, you give them that spark, that faith, they go up on them floors, loved ones going through something or something they battling with. But you give them that energy, it's going to change they mind frame.

Steph Bayer: It's so true. And that's why people rightly have been calling you an inspiration on our intranet. We had a story about the 89th Street party that you create every morning. And people have said what an inspiration you are for them to carry it forward. What inspires you?

Eric Hudson: What inspires me? I'm going to say life. The biggest thing that inspires me when I come to work and I'm talking with patients, patients who going through things that's worse than what we could ever go through, and they smiling. That's inspiring. And if they can smile, we can smile through it. I get my inspiration through the patients, the visitors, the caregivers and my coworkers. That's why I say I need that energy, reciprocate that energy. I lost my mom January 18th.

Steph Bayer: Oh, I'm sorry.

Eric Hudson: January 19th I was at the crosswalk getting it in. But that was the hardest thing, and that's when reciprocate that energy. Now I need you all. Now I need you all. Lift me up, give it to me. Give me that energy. And they did it. They did it. And they still do it. I wouldn't trade the caregivers at the clinic for nothing. Nothing. I mean, they're beautiful, beautiful.

Steph Bayer: That's such a lovely testament, and we don't know what people go through, and the way we can be inspired and continue to overcome it, it's really powerful.

Eric Hudson: Mm-hmm. Yes.

Steph Bayer: One of our core values here is empathy. Empathy for how we see other people. What does that mean to you and how do you fit that into your job and live that core value of the Cleveland Clinic and what makes us the Cleveland Clinic?

Eric Hudson: To me, empathy is everything. That's the most important thing. And that's the way you treat people, the way you pass that energy on, the way you talk to people. Like I say, you don't know what a person going through, especially about job. I don't want our interaction with the, every time you interact with the police, we enforcing the law. Get that tradition of condition, you conditioning them to think that's all we do. Police, we like to smile, we like to talk. We energetic, and especially the officers here. Cleveland Clinic Police Department, they wonderful.

Steph Bayer: They are.

Eric Hudson: My supervisor and them, it's funny because they treat me and my coworkers treat me just like Eric. It ain't no, they don't treat me no different. That's what I like about them. They accept me for me. That's what keep me humble. That's what keep me grounded. Because at the end of the day, this crosswalk is not about me. I remember one time after Thanksgiving I was out, there wasn't that many people out there. And I remember a doctor saying, "Ain't that many people out here and you still out here." Exactly. All I need is one. And I'm going to give them a show because all I need is one. And that one, they need it. Somebody needs it. And when somebody needs it, you got to give it to them. You got to give it to them. Somebody needs a little of that, "Joe, how you doing? Good morning. Smile. Hey, lift your head up, stick your chest out. Walk it like you own it." That's what I tell them when they cross the street, "Walk it like you own it. This is your day."

Steph Bayer: Man, you embody what I want my fellow caregivers to bring with them, from the way you view the role as a police officer to the way you bring the dance moves and the joy to strangers. How can other people channel empathy and learn from you? What can we do in our everyday lives and our jobs or otherwise to create more joy like you do?

Eric Hudson: You got to look in yourself first. It starts within yourself. Now, you look within yourself and see where's my life at? Everybody life ain't going to be where they want it to be. That's one you got to embrace. You can't judge your life off somebody else's life. You look within yourself, like Michael Jackson say, look at the man in the mirror. Look in the mirror. And when you see yourself, you look at all the things that you are blessed with and push out all the things you think you want or you think you deserve or you think you want to have. Take all that you got right now, that you embrace, that's positive. Now give it out, give it to them, feed them, feed them, feed them that energy. And that's where it starts from. It starts from within yourself because everybody.

You going to have negative no matter what. Sometimes people crosswalk, I could speak, they [inaudible 00:15:34]. No telling what they going through though. You know what I'm saying? You not going to be able to change everybody's mentality, but some people going through, I can't judge them. Some people going through something that's overbearing. And then you got some people that ain't morning person. They ain't morning people because I'm hollering at them in the morning. I'm a morning person. They like, "Man, this dude." That's what I tell them. Starbucks better package me up, put me in a cup, because I got that [inaudible 00:15:59] and that boat."

Going back to your words or your question, it stars within yourself. That's the first line of empathy. How would you want somebody to treat you, your loved ones, your mother, your father, your son, your daughter, your grandmother, your grandfather? How you want somebody to treat you? Treating other people and you notice it ain't what you get. It's the joy you get other people.

Steph Bayer: I love this. If I'm repeating this back, it's because I want to be more like you, I'm going to look at myself and do some examination and find that energy in me.

Eric Hudson: Yes. Self-examination.

Steph Bayer: I'm going to recognize that not everyone's going to bring the same energy back and that's okay because I don't know what they're going through, but that's okay.

Eric Hudson: Yes, that's okay.

Steph Bayer: And I'm going to focus on what I can control and bring joy there.

Eric Hudson: That's right. That's right. That's right. And like you said, the biggest thing is that's okay. And when you learn to say that's okay, a lot of things you ain't going to take personal. When you trying to give out the energy, "Good morning," somebody don't speak, that's okay. That's part of life, but that's part of joy. You going to have joy and pain. They go together. You ain't going to always have joy 24/7. That's what sharpens you up. Everything ain't going to go the same way. Even flowers need manure to grow. The most beautiful flower need manure to grow. Let that sink in.

Steph Bayer: That's so true. And that's how you can find those moments of joy because you know the other side of it too.

Eric Hudson: You know the other side and that's what makes you appreciate.

Steph Bayer: Yeah.

Eric Hudson: That's what make you appreciate the other side when you get to that. That's why you can't judge a person from where they at, what they got. You don't know they walk. You don't know them shoes. Don't judge my glory. You don't know my story. You don't know where I came from. You just looking at the diamond being polished, but you ain't looking.

Steph Bayer: It's pressure to create it.

Eric Hudson: Ah, man. Yes, exactly. You ain't looking at it coming from the mud or anything like that. Like I say, as I got older, I learned to appreciate the little things. The little things. And to see patients going through things, you appreciate it, and they still vibing with me and I'm still vibing. We still vibing and they smiling when you go on the floors. Oh my goodness.

Steph Bayer: You've inspired me today. As we're wrapping this up, is there anything you want to leave us with? Any piece of advice or wisdom or something I didn't ask you that we want to make sure that we call out before we end our time?

Eric Hudson: You hit everything. You hit everything, but I want to let caregivers know, we rocking baby, we still going. We going to party hard. We going to spread it though. I want to go hospital to hospital. I want to go clinic to clinic because we got some good to give, and you need it, and you need it, and you need it bad because like I say, what goes in you comes out when you're doing your work, when you provide. Whether it's cleaning the floors to putting the IV line in or talking to the troops or making that food in the cafeteria. Come on, now. You need that energy because that vibe spreads. You need it.

Steph Bayer: That's what I'm leaving this with. The emotion that you put out comes back to you, and it is contagious.

Eric Hudson: Hundred fold. Hundred fold.

Steph Bayer: We can share this to all of our hospitals across the world, man.

Eric Hudson: Across the world.

Steph Bayer: It's not just Cleveland Clinic, it can be everywhere.

Eric Hudson: Gayle King producer said, I'm going to leave you with this. Gayle King producer called me. They called me twice and one of the things he said, that makes sense, he said, "It ain't that the world wants it. They need it. That's why they calling you. That's why people calling you around and they need it." And we all need it. Yeah, I mean, we living in a harsh world and we need it. We lift each other up. Caregivers, when you see them, "Good morning, how you doing?"

Ask your coworkers what they going through. Get connected with your coworkers. Stop growling and frowning and no, "How you doing? Huh? How you doing? Get your day. You looking good. How the family doing? How the mom doing?" Ask them. Get in tune with each other family. Get to know each other. That's what makes everything great to work with. That's what brings that love to the environment where we get to know it. No matter what race, where you come from, your beliefs, hey, we all in this together. We on one team. We around each other more than we at home. Come on now. Embrace it. Embrace that positive energy. That's all I'm saying.

Steph Bayer: Man, that producer's right. We do need it. We need the connection and I'm so glad that we have you because we need you.

Eric Hudson: Thank you. I appreciate it.

Steph Bayer: Thank you for being part of the Cleveland Clinic family.

Eric Hudson: I appreciate it.

Steph Bayer: I'm so lucky.

Eric Hudson: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for having me today too.

Steph Bayer: This concludes the Studies in Empathy podcast. You can find additional podcast episodes on our website, my.clevelandclinic.org/podcast. Subscribe to the Studies in Empathy podcast on iTunes, Google Play, SoundCloud, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcast. Thank you for listening. Join us again soon.

Studies in Empathy
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Studies in Empathy

Join Cleveland Clinic Patient Experience leaders and a diverse group of guests as we delve into the human(e) experience in healthcare. Thought leaders share insight, anecdotes, and perspectives on empathy as a functional concept for Patient Experience leadership, and also just about everything else we do in healthcare- quality, safety, burnout, and engagement leadership.
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