Sunday, December 19, 2010

Feeling responsible, by association!

It happened to me again today. I went shopping and my shopping cart developed a squeal that made heads turn! This has happened to me so many times that sometimes I feel as if there is a conspiracy against me. Anyway, I felt embarrassed and had to change my cart.

So why did I feel embarrassed? The cart belongs to the store, its not my personal driving machine. Everybody knows that I just picked it up as I walked into the store. So is there a reason for me to feel the way I did? Maybe there is. I can only define it as "Responsibility by association." When I picked the cart as I came in, it was mine for the period of time I was in the store. Now extrapolate this to a social situation. If a person starts behaving like a jerk at a party, his or her friends feel embarrassed. In the same token, we feel proud when our friends achieve success. (Well, most people do. Except for the small minority who are always competing with their "friends"!) That's because we assume responsibility of persons associated with us. The closer the association with an individual, the more responsible we feel. So why is that?

Our character is a complex interplay of our mannerisms, our nature and education, among many other things. But it is also affected by our associations. We therefore, cannot afford to be indifferent as to who or what our friends are. Every man becomes, to a certain degree, what the people he hangs out with are.

"A man only learns in two ways, one by reading, and the other by association with smarter people!" ~ Will Rogers


Sunday, December 5, 2010

A salute to a life well lived

Most of you know that I am a practicing physician. One of the practices that we run was bought from a retiring physician. He became a patient of our practice and I have known him for the last 10 years. Three months ago, he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He came to the office two weeks ago.
"Hey Arvin," he said. "How's the family?"
"Good, sir," I replied. "And how are you?"
"You know the damn cancer is spreading. I don't think I'll be able to beat this darn thing," he said, and a sad smile touched his face.
"Keep on with the chemo and you never know what might happen....." My voice trailed off. I didn't sound convincing, even to myself. This guy was a physician, he knew about the disease process and prognosis.
"I know exactly what's going on and what's going to happen. Just came to say good bye, Arvin. You have been very good to me," he said and held out his hand.
I took his hand. The grip was still very firm.
"You still have time. I'll see you next month for your blood work," I said, feeling down. I really didn't know what else to say.
"Oh I know.... I know. I 'm still around for a few months. But with the illness I have, things can go downhill in a jiffy. And I never miss out on thanking people...never."
"I appreciate that, but the pleasure has been all mine." And I really meant it.

Here was this upstanding gentleman, who knew he was almost at the end of his earthly journey, thanking people who had touched his life one way or the other. That in itself, spoke volumes about his character. He believed that "silent gratitude" is of no use to anyone.

Exactly 2 weeks from the day of that conversation, I got news that he passed on peacefully.

Hats off to him for a life well lived. And I thank him for reinforcing one of life's lessons, which I hope I never forget -----

"Feeling Gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and never giving it."