In last week''s blog we explored the nature of our strengths. This week, let’s consider what gives us strength. The two topics sound similar but are quite different
For several years, I’ve been leading patients in a weekly group singing session. One gentleman, a retired music teacher, asked to join the group. His request was surprising because, before he’d come to me for radiation treatment, throat cancer had required removing his vocal chords. He couldn''t sing or even talk, so he’d scribbled his request on a scrap of paper. When I inquired, he explained that the people in the group, he felt, would "give him voice." As a music teacher with innate music ability, the man’s strength is music. But in requesting to join our group, he sought strength not from his musical talents but from the group’s bonding and mutual reinforcement (through song).
In today''s lexicon, we talk of empowerment. I think that, although it’s become a cliché, the term is a good one for our discussion about what gives us strength. To go further, I’ll share three examples -- in the tradition of "52" -- of things that give me strength, then maybe you’d like to reflect on your own sources of empowerment.
First, for me, there is "family". I’ve devoted quite a bit of space in this blog to the subject of family, so I’ll say only that my family makes me feel loved, and -- more importantly -- I have the opportunity to love them. I realize that not everyone can say the same things, and I truly appreciate that dimension of my life.
A second source from which I derive strength is God. I won’t delve into the sophisticated, philosophical appeal that I see in the notion of a deity. Instead, I''m speaking about a rather primitive concept. Almost always, I feel God in my life. Not in the sense of intervention or, as some might say, “divine Providence," but in terms of having something akin to an imaginary friend. It''s comforting.
And helpful. Sometimes people confide in me, sharing unusual or surprising information. At such moments, I don’t always know how to react. I would never violate a confidence to divulge personal information to another human being, but I find occasionally that conversing with God can help me discover how to process confidences and perhaps respond in a helpful way.
Finally, I derive a tremendous amount of strength from helping others. When I said that recently to a neighbor, he replied, "I would assume so, you''re a doctor!" But there’s something that means even more to me than the high-powered, life-saving aspects of modern medicine. It’s a day-to-day “procedure” that I carry out, within my hospital. That procedure isn’t positioning someone for radiation treatment or doing a bone marrow biopsy. It’s simply giving people directions.
To enter a modern medical center today is to enter a confusing maze. That seems true throughout the world. Because of the expensive and heavy equipment that they maintain, hospitals rarely relocate to updated, more organized quarters. It''s not a simple matter to call a moving company and ask the "schleppers" to load the MRI scanner or the Linear Accelerator into their van for transport to a new address. So instead, hospitals expand, adding cross-bridges here or ridiculous tunnels there. The result is, typically, the most counter-intuitive structure that any first year architecture student could concoct.
When I look around at hospital patients and visitors trying to find their destinations, I can''t help but notice what I call "the visage of perplexity." To compound the problem, bewilderment usually layers itself atop an infrastructure of fear. So throughout the day, almost anyone familiar with hospital layout can help by serving as a human GPS. Patients always say thank you. It''s a great feeling to point someone to the O.R. or the catheterization lab or even the cafeteria, especially for your humble blogger who is not exactly endowed with a well-honed sense of direction.
So, those are three things that give me strength: family, God, and helping people.
It''s worth pondering what gives you strength. It will teach you a lot about your values. It will give you many ways to feel empowered throughout the day.
Shalom until next Monday,