This I Believe

Margaret - Lakewood, Ohio
Entered on June 25, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
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I grew up in a dysfunctional family. My childhood was a series of upheavals, screaming, yelling, crying, moving, confusion, sadness, moving—and moving. All this was led by two people who were emotional cripples. Mom tried to love me-and succeeded on some levels-the whole time grappling with her own emotionally neglected childhood nightmares. Dad was miserable. Happiness was not allowed. Despite all this, I still believe that mine was not the worst childhood and I’ve arrived at adulthood with baggage that is still manageable.

I used to work for a doctor; he was a geriatrician. Although only in his mid-40’s his bedside manner was that of the old fashioned country doctor. His patients loved him, treasured him. When he left his practice for sunnier skies, there was much pandemonium. Patients promised to die if he moved away. Some offered to admit themselves to a nursing home if they could still be his patient.

One evening, after a long day (doctor consistently ran about two hours late), and after overhearing a conversation with a particularly difficult and rude patient, I asked him how he could be so nice to someone so awful. The Catholic in him answered that he offered up his suffering for the poor souls in purgatory. Then he asked me a question: “Wasn’t anybody in your family ever nice to each other?” “No.”, I said. I didn’t have to think about the answer. But it made me think about the concept—being sincerely nice to someone just for the sake of being nice—because it’s the right treatment. Pretty novel idea, huh? It may sound simple-a childhood lesson. My childhood lessons were mostly ones of survival and withdrawal from others—because it was safer. I thought about my friend, the doctor, and how his patients loved him-they waited hours to see him. He probably could have been the worst physician ever (thankfully, he was just the opposite) and it wouldn’t have mattered because he listened to them and treated them with the utmost respect-NO MATTER WHAT!

I think that’s when I started to believe that the only thing people will remember about you is how you treated them; not how much money you made, not how much stuff you owned, not the clothes you wore or even what you looked like. They will only remember how you made them feel.

I practice this belief in my daily life and learn from it everyday. Sometimes I think I’m going to live to be really old because it’s taken me so long to learn some of these basic life lessons. I know that this belief has made me a happier and better person. Perhaps that’s the reason I’ll be around for awhile.