I posted a week ago about my frustration with doctors. Well, not so much with doctors in general, but the slack cut to them verses the constant badgering other public servants (teachers especially) have to deal with.
Since then a doctor from my hometown committed suicide.
Although I didn’t know him personally, I did go to school with his daughter and I started to think about her, whose face I could picture, and other members of her family whose faces I could not. I felt sick to my stomach for them and reminded myself that you never know who might need your empathy and compassion–even those who seem to have it all.
I’m currently reading a book that has really stuck with me called 10% Happier by Dan Harris. In it, he discusses his journey through learning how to meditate and become a more compassionate person. He is a skeptic of the whole process, but pushes through because he feels the benefits of the practice in his life. Reading his book has forced me to think more about being more aware, more open, and more empathetic to others.
When I heard the news about the doctor from my hometown, I tried to remember the lessons I’m learning about mindfulness from Harris’ book, and I spent a while trying to send compassionate thoughts to the gastroenterologist last week who so frustrated me. It turns out it was pretty easy to do, because just as I try to remind my students and their parents that I am a human and not just their teacher, I should remember that lesson myself as well. My mail carrier has his own dogs to walk, the woman who helps me at the post office has grandchildren she doesn’t get to see enough, and the twenty-something serving me iced tea works really hard to pay her bills. We are all more than one facet of ourselves.
I posed this question to my students last week and now I’ll pose it to you: If you lived your life in a padded room and never interacted with another human being, would you still be you? Or do all those people shape you into what you believe is your identity? Am I a mother without my daughter? A wife without my husband? A teacher without my students?
We all need each other, and sometimes that might mean being patient with a grumpy doctor and putting aside resentment for the unequal treatment of our professions. Because you never know what kind of stuff swirls around in his head when he leaves his visit with you.