Much more than vanity
Treating people’s faces has always meant so much more to me than just making them look more youthful. I know the part I play in making people feel better about themselves. I especially understand what part counseling plays in the overall result. But there are still times that the impact I have on someone’s life gets lost in the shuffle.
A few weeks ago a patient came in who hadn’t been in for a while. Life had rocked her with a few very hard blows and her face, as it often does, reflected her problems. We talked about what needed to be done. We spoke about some of the other things she could do to help her manager her stress. I was gratified that when she left the office she looked years younger. Equally important, I felt that I had passed along some of the tools she needed to move on.
A few days later I got this from her in an email:
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping me feel more like myself when I look in the mirror. Some people may not understand they feel it is just being vain but when your whole world has been turned upside down and you do not even recognize yourself in the mirror anymore, it is a small step in putting the pieces back together, finding myself again and moving forward. So I thank you for your care and compassion in what you do.”
I was humbled. Believe me, one email like that goes a long way. Compassionate is always what I wanted to be. I feel it’s the numero uno requirement of a healer. Maybe it goes back to when i decided to be a doctor, when I was about ten, and two doctors saved my younger brother’s life when he was hemorrhaging after an tonsillectomy, in his bedroom down the hall. Maybe it was when my Dad got sick and I watched him fade away when I was barely 18. Maybe the influence of my Grandma. Whatever, I was flattered. And humbled.
“Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Plato said that, or maybe Philo of Alexandria, or Buddha. Nowadays it is so easy to insulate ourselves from our fellow travelers behind an iPhone screen or an .anonymous post on FaceBook. I think it’s important not to do that, not to cut yourself off from the world..
We can’t be perfect. We can’t be wonderful and kind and compassionate all the time. But it’s a pretty worthy goal. Our black Lab, Sam, who passed a few weeks ago, was that way. JoAnn and I had a lot of names for him. We sometimes called him Buddha Dog because he had a kind wag and a gentle way with all creatures and always left people feeling better than when he found them. We figure if he could do it for fifteen years we could at least give it a shot every day.