White Printer Paper With Be Kind Text on Plants

We are often assaulted by negative news stories. Although factual, stories of murders, terrorism, political scandals and natural disasters saturate the airwaves. While there are anecdotes detailing acts of kindness, in my humble opinion, it seems as though the stories recounting acts of malice are much more ubiquitous than those describing deeds of goodwill.

            Despite this overwhelming amount of pessimistic narrative that enters our lives through newspapers, radio, television and our phones, I sincerely believe that there are more acts of benevolence than there are gestures of hostility. Kind acts occur every day around the globe, and when I learn about things that people do to add something positive to the lives of others, it motivates me even more to do the same.

            While in the middle of a busy shift in the Emergency Department last year, I witnessed such an act. We were busy to the point that we ran out of rooms, so there were many patients on stretchers in the hall. I had cared for a middle-aged woman, and after some testing, deemed that she was safe to be discharged home. I cannot recall all the details, but apparently she lived about an hour away from the hospital and she had no way of getting home. The clerk in the department had offered to call a cab, and it turned out that the fare was going to be $100. My patient said that she could not afford to pay such a large fare and she stated that she had no other way of getting home.

            After a short conversation at the desk with the clerk, the woman appeared despondent. Only a few minutes had passed when the man approached. He was an older gentleman, probably in his early seventies. He was a family member of another patient who had overheard the difficulties that my patient was experiencing. He took $100 dollars out of his wallet, handed it to my patient and told her that he wanted her to have it.

            My patient responded by saying something like, “I can’t accept this money from you,” and then, “Why are you being so nice to me?”

            I still remember the gentleman’s response. He said, “You’ve got it backwards. You’re actually doing something nice for me by allowing me to help you.”

Giving away $100 seemingly without thought to a total stranger appeared to be an effortless thing for this man to do. I believe that showing love and compassion is quite easy most of the time. Admittedly, it can sometimes be a challenge. However, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Moreover, kindness can be quite infectious, and it will be paid forward over and over again.

A Backwards Society

Sliced Avocado Fruit and Green Vegetable on White Chopping Board

While at work in the Emergency Department a few weeks ago, I saw a young man in his early forties who had come to the hospital because of neck pain. It turns out that he was concerned because he had just suffered a heart attack the prior week for which he had a cardiac catheterization and a stent placed in his heart to open up a blocked blood vessel. A few months ago, I took care of a woman in her fifties that was admitted to the hospital and ended up needing open heart surgery due to extensive heart disease. 

I realize that the above is not the most uplifting opening paragraph for a blog post. However, it is factual nonetheless. My intention is not to be discouraging, but rather to create awareness and inspire change. Diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol, cancer, heart disease and stroke are chronic diseases that are very often related to lifestyle choices—especially diet and exercise. These horrible conditions are frequently preventable. When they do occur, many are often reversible. Moreover, these maladies are oftentimes created by the afflicted individual. 

Although I could be mistaken, I believe that I have a fairly unique perspective on the healthcare system in this country. I would like to preface my thoughts by stating that our healthcare system is miraculous. We have an armamentarium of pharmaceuticals, procedures and surgeries that are life saving. I know this because I’ve seen it first hand. Amazing things happen in hospitals every day. 

Having said that, I believe that our society has it all backwards. We eat an abundance of processed foods containing sugar, white flour, salt, oils and artificial chemicals. These lifestyle choices unquestionably cause people to become sick with one or more of the aforementioned chronic diseases. How do we currently fix this? We turn to doctors, pharmaceuticals and medical device companies. We use pills to control the symptoms of diseases that we ourselves have often created. This. Is. Backwards. We need a paradigm shift. Why eat poorly, become ill and then take pills to put a band-aid on your diseases?  Instead, why not eat a nutritious diet and greatly decrease the risk of sickness in the first place? Do this and you can feel vibrant, focussed and well.

Which option sounds better? The choice belongs to you. Have a conversation with your doctor. It is my sincere hope that we can have a paradigm shift. I know that we can be better. Are you with me?