This I Believe

Robert - Wilbraham, Massachusetts
Entered on September 5, 2006

Title: The answer I have been waiting for.

I am a pediatrician and have been for 25 years. I love my job, I wouldn’t do anything else. I wake up everyday looking forward to work and conversely have never woke up in the morning and not wanted to go to work. Recently I have had two interesting conversations with teenage boys. The first one got me thinking; to my usual question. “Do you have any other questions?” he replied “What is the meaning of life?” He was being a little sarcastic, but that is ok. BUT I did not have an answer. Later that day I came up with ‘altruism.’ And I have been mulling that over since then and it seems like a good answer. If we were all altruistic there would be no crime, no greed, no war and life would be idyllic. Wishful thinking but not achievable. Then this week I was doing a physical on an eighth grade boy who I asked about school and he said he did well. His mother piped in that he had won a math award for the best math student in the seventh grade. I next asked about reading and to my surprise he said he loved to read and had read several books this summer. So I was on a roll so I asked “What would you like to be when you grow up? Expecting him to say lawyer, doctor, teacher or go into business: he floored me when he (without smirking and with absolute, complete, utter sincerity in his voice and expression) said “The best person I can be.” I have been waiting 25 years for this answer. I have always been happy when kids tell me they want to be something constructive when they grow up. And when they say I don’t know, I just tell them “That’s okay most kids don’t, I only ask because I am curious” But to have an eighth grade boy, be so mature was startling. Later that night as I was telling my wife this story and bringing a tear to her eye, I realized that this could be the answer to the question and possibly achievable. I do not care about success. I want happiness. You could be a doctor, a stock broker, a teacher, a waitress, garbage collector, even a used car dealer; if we all were the best people we could be; we would be happy, we would be productive, and we would grow up to be happy healthy adults with good families. That is what I want for “my kids” and it is how I try to influence their thinking. I start with tiny pieces of information that I give them with each visit and try to build on it little by little, so that I have had some positive influence on their lives. Now I have one more piece of the puzzle that I can offer them and hope they can put it to good use. Thanks David! What more can I ask for? What more can I strive for? Only to be “The best person I can be.”