“… Chances are, they’ll probably give it back to you.”A man in the desert that just finished proton therapy radiation for cancer
I estimate that in the last few years, I’ve met thousands of new faces and names. At first I was pretty quick with remembering everyone, even the less memorable, not that that’s a bad thing. I would use mnemonic devices to quickly learn the names of dozen of people. When I started medical school and met almost 200 other medical students, I was proud of learning 80% of names in the first week. However, as time has gone on and i’ve become more tired and overworked (although self-inflicted), this skill has become harder and harder to maintain. The turnover of new people I meet working locums is at a new level. Not only are my learning hundreds of new names monthly, from nurses, to respiratory therapists, to secretaries, to janitors, but I’m doing this while trying to remember my passwords for each hospital I work at. I have a different email address, login name and password for each hospital I have to remember. I write everything down in word documents and excel spreadsheets to stay neurotically organized – the moment I don’t take my 1 hour per week to streamline life, doublecheck my calendar and update my passwords, is the moment everything falls apart.
Among all of the chaos, I always take time to reflect on my life. Whether it’s the previous moment, day, week or year, there are always those particular moments that stick out. Some are obvious and some are more nuanced, revealed by certain triggers or conscious recollection. I would be lying If I said that I was always smiley and happy – it’s just not quite normal for anyone to really be like that. We all have episodes of sadness, grief, depression and feeling down. But as a doctor, and particularly a Pediatrician, I try to remind myself that sometimes I am meeting someone at the most vulnerable time in their life, and while I signed up for this, they probably didn’t. It’s difficult to put oneself in another’s shoes, that’s exactly why the time-old adage has lived on, as a modest goal for everyone to have. So, no matter what is going on in my personal life, I find, by doing what I do, that there is an even larger importance to pass on Robert’s message to give someone a Smile if they don’t have one.
My challenge for anyone that reads this is to heed his words and the next time you come across someone, no matter if it is a family member, friend or stranger that doesn’t have a smile, give them yours. While I don’t agree that they’ll always give it back to you, it may be the one thing that they need for that day. You can never know everything, and may never know even a small thing, about another’s life or circumstances, but the very least you can do is give support in the form of a Smile.