Sunday, February 23, 2014

'D' is for being "Down-to-earth"

A few months ago, while I was examining a very nice middle-aged gentleman for his annual physical, my cell phone rang for the second time in 5 minutes. I looked at the phone, it was my wife calling. 
"I'm sorry, I have to take this call," I said to the patient.
"No problems, Doctor," he said, as I stepped out.
I returned after a few minutes after taking the call.
"I'm sorry, that was my wife. Our daughter studies abroad and is not well, and my wife is trying to get a flight to visit her, " I said to the patient, trying to explain the repeated interruptions. 
"Please don't worry about it," he said. I was thankful he was not upset.  
"Where is your wife flying to?" the patient asked, after I was done with his exam.
"Oh... to Miami. She already has a booking from Miami to Grenada. The problem is the flight from here to Miami," I said, surprised at the question.
"Maybe I could help out," the patient said.
"Oh really? You work in the travel industry?" I asked hopefully.
"," he smiled. "This time of the year, our IT consulting company charters a plane for a couple of months and for the next 2 days, there are no flights planned. I could arrange something."
"The IT company would let you use their charter jet?" I asked, with a touch of incredulity.
"I own the IT company," he said, almost apologetically.
My jaw almost hit the floor, as I stared at this simply dressed, polite man, who has been a patient since the last 5-6 years. I make an earnest effort not to delve into personal or professional lives of my patients. But never in a million years could I have guessed that this gentleman was such a wealthy person.

So what is it that makes some people so humble and down-to-earth, and others who would almost tattoo their wealth and achievements on their forehead? Both these categories of people are successful. The question is, which kind would you want to spend time or hang out with? A good friend, who has a lot of good lines, appropriately said that being 'Down-to-Earth' does not mean you think less of yourself, but you think of yourself less!

It is far more impressive when others discover your good qualities without your help. It is good to be proud of our achievements, and we should take pride in our success. There's a very fine line between pride and arrogance. We have a choice which side of the line we want to be on. As someone aptly said, none are so empty as those who are full of themselves. Nobody stands taller than those willing to stand corrected.

"When science discovers the center of the Universe, a lot of people will be disappointed to find they are not it!" ~ Bernard Bailey


Thursday, February 13, 2014

'C' is for 'Compassion'

"Here is a check for $300 for the Medical Camp at the Temple. For Flu shots. I saw the flyer in the waiting room," said Ms. xyz (name changed for privacy) to me, few months ago.
I have known this person as a patient for many years, and I know she does not have too much money to spare.
"That's a lot of money, " I said, taken aback a little. "Please write another check for a smaller amount."
"It's okay, Doctor," she smiled. "I donate 5% of my salary every month."
"Every month? Since how long?" I asked.
"Hmm...ever since I was about 25, and I am 72 now," she replied.
"You have been doing this every month your entire life? That is mighty generous of you." I really meant that.
"It's really not that much, Doctor. I still keep 95 percent for myself. By cutting $5 out of every hundred, I don't even notice it. But if these 5 dollars get to the right place, it can make a world of a difference to somebody."
And if you think this through, it is so true. 

I was inspired. This was real compassion. I wish I thought like her. How does one define compassion? According to the dictionary, "a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering." And of this definition, the last line is most important -- the desire or want to do something to help, without any expectation in return. We all feel bad about a lot of things. But how many of us actually try to do something about it?

As John Wooden once said, "You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone, who will never be able to repay you." Compassion and kindness are like a boomerang, they will always return back to you. Compassion prods you to do things, not because others can't, but because you can. And it's not only money. In fact, I strongly believe majority of people are kind and compassionate, but not every body is able to help with money. People volunteer at schools, libraries, free clinics, soup kitchens etc..... I'm sure everybody knows hundreds of places and outlets where we all can give back to society and our communities. We can't help everyone, but everyone can help someone. A good friend of ours has appropriately said -- "Sometimes you give not because you have a lot but because you know what it feels like not to have much."

  "If you don't have charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble" ~ Bob Hope


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

'B' is for 'Being Yourself'

Imagine you are cast in a play, and you have to act as 'yourself'. Nothing complicated, nothing fancy, you are just acting as you, your esteemed self. You really wouldn't have to act, would you? After all, you are playing yourself! It would be a breeze.

Unless.......if a person has been so busy trying to copy someone else one day, be like somebody else on another, that he or she really does not know who they really are. This person is going to have a tough time acting in that play!

Now bear with me and extrapolate this to life. If I am being myself, it would be so easy to navigate life. I am me, good or bad, but unique and original. I don't have to put any extra effort in being myself. But in day-to-day life, if I try to be anybody else, (maybe that popular, jovial guy in town!), no matter how good I am at copying, I'll still be a copy. And never as good as the original version.

There is no value in trying to display qualities that we don't possess, to gain applause that we can't hold. To try to be someone else is being insincere to your self, and is also very exhausting.

If you are always unapologetically yourselves, with no airs, always straightforward, you will be happy. But believe me, you will be talked about. Like minded people will love you, some will be envious, and a very small minority will be jealous. And the latter emotion is a result of neurotic insecurity, emoted by people who really want to be like you, and in fact, are socially bankrupt. What we can hope is for a day when these folks start paying more attention to their own lives, rather than meddling in somebody else's.

The pen that writes our life story should be held in our own hands. We should be the authors of our own destiny and legacy. It takes a lot of courage to be your own self all the time, but as we grow in years, it becomes relatively easier. I know a lot of people who are truly themselves all the time. I don't always agree with their views, but I do always respect them, because I know where they are coming from. And we all know people (always a miniscule minority), who are growing older every day, but are not growing up!

"He who trims himself to suit everyone, will soon whittle himself away." ~ Raymond Hull