Sometimes something small – even just a smile – can have more impact on someone else than we might think.
I hear and read a lot about people looking for their life purpose, their mission, what they’re meant to do… (and I’ve thought about these things too)… and I don’t think it always has to be some big or grand “thing.” As we live our life, we live our purpose – and sometimes our purpose on a given day can be something as simple as just a smile.
Yesterday I had a stress-filled medical appointment. Health-related stuff (including doctor visits) is a huge anxiety trigger for me in general, so I went into that physician’s office feeling anxious (and putting my calming tools to work – the breathing techniques, the prayers, the crystals I had with me). I felt self-conscious being out and about with my cane. I’ve been anxious about my symptoms, I was anxious about the possibility of bad news from the doctor, and I was anxious in general because it was a doc appointment so hello, anxiety trigger.
The front desk staff was courteous but curt, and gave me totally different information than I’d received in my phone call to the office the day before – which resulted in having to fill out forms I’d already completed and submitted online. No big deal but it meant I’d been given the wrong time to arrive (or the wrong info on either the phone call or at the desk) and it caught me off-guard. I started to feel rushed and flustered.
The other staff – once I was in the “back” – treated me professionally but it all felt so automatic and rote and non-personal. It’s a big specialty practice with several doctors, most patients aren’t there on a regular basis, and I can understand how it might be challenging to deal with so many patients, so many people, all-day-every-day.
And the time with the doctor was … not good. He kept interrupting me, he got frustrated with me, and I got increasingly flustered and anxious as I tried to answer his questions. He sent me to another part of the building for a couple of tests, then saw me again in the exam room – and in the time between those exam room visits, as I did those tests and sat in a small waiting room before being taken to the exam room again – I had to fight back the tears… and it’s rare (and I do mean rare) for me to cry in public.
Does your doctor ever make you feel stupid? That’s how I felt yesterday. (I know, I shouldn’t say anyone made me feel a certain way because I’m responsible for my feelings, and there’s the whole No one can make you feel inferior without your consent (as Eleanor Roosevelt said) and all that) – but I ended up feeling stupid and flustered, and my emotions were a reaction to the way he handled the appointment.)
This wasn’t my first visit to this office but it was my first appointment with this doctor – my former doc went into an even more specialized area of care and no longer sees patients with my symptoms. I’d heard this guy wasn’t only a good doctor but also a good, kind person… so when my experience didn’t match that, the self-blaming, self-kicking started up – maybe it was just me, maybe it was something about my personality, or maybe I was talking too much, or maybe I was being too sensitive, or maybe it was a case of a physician seeing a woman my age who is overweight and unemployed and honest about being anxious and he was thinking “unintelligent neurotic housewife here.”
Or maybe he was just having a bad day.
I sat in the exam room the second time, nodding at what he said, trying not to let him see how upset I was feeling, and just wanting to get the hell away from there.
And then he left the room and a woman came to guide me to another part of the building to schedule some tests. When she came to get me, she smiled really big and then she said something and we laughed… And I felt better. For a little while, I felt better. We stopped at her work station and she gave me a sheet of instructions for the tests (what to expect, things to avoid) and then she walked me the rest of the way to turn me over to the person who would do the actual scheduling of said tests.
As she left me, she gave me a final big friendly smile and a soft touch on the shoulder.
My thank you to her as she walked away was full of huge gratitude.
Gratitude for her kindness. Gratitude for her moment of connection. Gratitude for her smile helping me feel less stupid and scared.
It reminded me of what I’ve said before, and truly believe.
We never know how much we might touch someone – or what a difference we might make – with just a smile.