Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Attitude of Gratitude

If there is one theme that is running through these past few weeks, it is one of gratefulness.

If there is one sure sign of ungratefulness, it is the tendency to worry. Worrying offends God, because He wants to remind us that you know, hey, I've got this.

Really, if I think hard about it, I don't know what it is that I really have to worry about. We have our house, our health, our jobs, and yet - we feel that if we did not continue to fret constantly and plan and work hard, all these things would fall to pieces.

The one habit I have when I worry is to check my bank account often. I will firstly look at my bank balance, and then groan. And then I will look at my credit card debt, and then groan again. And then I look at my personal loan, and then I will pull the blanket covers over my head, roll into a foetal position and then rock to-and-fro.

Yes, it sounds really petty, and yes, these are #firstworldproblems, but can I convince you that if we are not careful, sometimes we are so naturally inward looking and self-centered, that the default posture would be one of self-pity and ungratefulness. We forget to be thankful for what we have, and instead focus on what we don't have. This then spills over into our daily lives - we start comparing, and being less generous and giving to ourselves, our families, our friends.

And yet, Life is kind. She carries a a wonderful Baseball Bat of Amnesia Cure+3. Sometimes, in order to cure us of our forgetfulness, she comes in running at full speed, swinging wildly. This time, I just had a gentle reminder tap on the head.

It all started from the incident of the mini-flooding in the house when I was reminded about how lucky I was to have a roof over our heads.

This was followed by a conversation that I had with an anaesthetic consultant who surprised me when he told me about his experience in his early years lining up in a Centrelink welfare queue.

He was 19, in med school, first child in hand, and lining up for a government handout because the bills were mounting and both he and the partner couldn't make ends meet. Now, still married to the same woman and with four beautiful kids on board, he looks back at the tough times with much fondness, because despite how bad things may seem currently, he knows they've pulled through worse.

The last and most interesting thing happened at work during one of our registrar teaching sessions. We were having a talk on leadership, and the bosses of both the doctors and nursing staff had agreed to start an initiative of gratefulness within the department. It was something they affectionately named ABCD - or Above and Beyond the Call of Duty.

All of us were given a notepad each, and told to note down each day while we were at work, someone who had gone out of their way to make our work easier that day, or who had been good to us.

These notes are to be placed in a box in the department, and more than just acknowledging and appreciating each other for the work that we do daily, I think more importantly it is meant to help us shift our perspectives at work from focusing on what went wrong that day, to something that went well.

It might seem like a fluffy and let's-hold-hands-and-sing-Kum-Ba-Yah-around-the-campfire thing to do, and yet I believe that it is this inculcated habit of gratefulness and positivity which will help the department function better and make people look forward to work rather than dreading it. Yes, it may seem a little artificial at the start, and yet I believe that if we continue at it, it will become more natural, and drive the culture of the department.

Already I have been feeling more positive about being at work these past two weeks than I have in awhile, having bosses compliment me for a job well done, and doing the same to my peers and juniors and nursing staff as well.

We who care for the lives of so many people, should feel cared for ourselves, and be reminded that we do valuable work.

Anyway, I will leave you with a story from one of our doctors from India who shared this great story about gratefulness during the leadership training session:

The Indian Doctor's Story

I come from a family which is one of the largest medical families in India. My grandfather was a doctor, both my parents and my uncles and aunties are doctors, and even my siblings and cousins are doctors. 

I was in a shop one day when the shopowner found out that I was a doctor and he asked me for my surname, and so I told him.

He recognised the name, and he said that his great grandfather had to have an X-ray many years ago, and had to travel 2 days in order to get one. My grandfather was the radiologist at the time, and when he found out that he had traveled two days just to get an X-ray, he invited him to his house to have coffee, and rest, before making the trip home.

Oh, the shopowner could not remember what the X-ray was for, or even what sickness his grandfather had at the time. All he remembered was how my grandfather cared and showed kindness to his great grandfather that day, and the story remains in his family until today.

All of us in the room were silenced by this great example of what we are really called to do in this job of ours.

Yeah, so. Life. Baseball bat. Gratefulness.

I have stopped checking my bank account for the past two weeks now.

There's a subliminal message hidden in here somewhere.


Anonymous said...

Fellow 30-er - Nowadays with cyber crime being everywhere you should be checking your bank account to make sure your money has not been stolen -LOL!

Your brother from the same mother said...

I watched an old black and white movie where a tycoon was sitting on his chair, puffing a cigar when his worker came in a huff and puff and screamed "Sir. Your stocks are tumbling and all your investors are bailing. What should we do?!?" The tycoon looked calmly at his worker and remarked, "Jensen.I didn't make money so I'd have to worry about it too" To which the worker was stunned in silence, and immediately left the room. Nothing like a black and white movie to hammer in an age old truth that will stand the test of time.

mellowdramatic said...

Fellow 30-er - True! Now you're making me nervous! (Resist, resist...)

HW - Hahaha! Quite deep... He must have been made of ice.