Just a few days ago, I had an office visit with a patient that impacted me greatly, touched my heart, and opened my eyes to see kindness in a new and profound way. I've watched this special lady deal with Parkinsons Disease as it slowly and steadily has progressed over the past decade. From a young looking sprightly old lady with silvery curly hair who always had a mischievous sparkle to her eyes I have watched her wither away over the last ten years to this ghostly , emaciated elderly woman , slumped in a wheel chair accompanied by her exhausted looking daughter. Her eyes had a glassy far away defeated look to them. She had slobber dripping down one side of her mouth in a thick stringy pattern. Her daughter kept trying to clean it as soon as she could and was miserably failing in her efforts. Her chin was tucked deep into her chest and she looked at me with a tired upward gaze. I said “ Good morning !”Her defeated look took my breath away and I wavered for just a second and looked at her with a very direct gaze and asked “ Hi Martha! How are you? There was no effort to respond. In my very busy day when I am gliding from one room to another , I told myself to stop. The entourage accompanying me consisting of a medical student and a scribe also fell silent. We all sensed that this was special. I could feel the moment demanding all of my attention. Time stood still and I knelt down in front of her, took both of her hands into mine and asked her to look into my eyes and as I took her lifeless cold hands into my hands , I just sat their silently and asked her after a long pause again in a whisper “ How are you my dear ? “ I could see she was struggling to form words, she tried but gave up , I started to stroke her hands very very gently and looked at her again and said “ You look beautiful Martha!” I saw a glint and a flicker of a smile in her eyes , which clearly said “ You Liar”! A small tear rolled down her eyes while her eyes smiled through them . Her face completely transformed . She mumbled and failed. She struggled to pick up the pen and her communication board ... while I continued to soothingly whisper anything that came to my mind about how long we had known each other , how long we had come in this journey together and how I remembered her visits and how blessed she was to have such a caring daughter. I wanted to let her feel all the blessings she had in her life right now. Tears were flowing down her smiling face and she started to spell the words on her communication board... very laboriously . I went on “What can I do for you?". Utilizing her communication board she responded "What can you do for me?". As I gently held and stroked her hand, I said "I'll do whatever I can for you". She looked at me and after several heartbeats, pointed to the letters on her communication board to spell out the sentence …... I...L..I..K..E.... Y..O..U. !!! I smiled. She smiled as well. To say that this interaction "made my day" is an understatement! This exchange only took a few minutes, but I will hide this event in my heart and remember it always. I felt that in that moment the God in me became one with the God in her! A glorious moment which was fulfilling beyond what words can ever express. I felt the healing touch of the lord using me as a medium to soothe this unfortunate woman. Time stood still. There was pin drop silence in the room. I felt as if my life and profession had taken me to the next level of service and a step closer to my destined vocation of selfless volunteering.
How about your life? When was the last time you extended a small kindness to someone else and experienced a true moment to be treasured? What was that act of kindness? And who was the recipient of your kindness? A friend? Family member? Stranger? How did it feel to you? What were the sensations? There's research to back up the claim that every act of kindness causes your brain to release chemicals which can make you feel better. These small acts of kindness and positive interactions can help you feel more supported and connected to others and improve your long term well being. Doing something small for someone else and making them the center of your universe for a few minutes in time can change your perspective and your heart. Sometimes we all have the tendency to put ourselves and our own lives "center stage". When we do this we see things only from our own viewpoint and how it affects us. This can easily lead to all kinds of adverse effects - doubting ourselves when we aren't perfect, feeling sorry for ourselves when things aren't going according to our plans, feeling lost and alone with our own issues when we're having a challenging day, or just plain going through some hard times in our lives. Sometimes we almost drown in our own feelings. So whenever I catch myself lingering in the center of an adverse state of mind, I do my best to briefly shift my focus, away from my own issues, and onto other people around me that I might be able to help. Finding little ways to help others gets me out of my self-centered problem-solving thinking. I start to think about what others might need. We may not know their life circumstances, but it's fair to say that others may have been deeply heartbroken and may be currently going through heart break. Perhaps they have lost siblings, children, or parents to accidents or illnesses. Maybe they've been fired from a job. Others may have had to deal with, or are dealing with, infidelity. Some of them may have been discriminated against because of their gender or race. I'm no longer stagnant in self centered thinking because now the central question is about what others need. Thinking about others instead of oneself leads the way to feeling less broken, lost, and alone when you're struggling to move your life forward.
It's one of life's great paradoxes: When we serve others, we end up benefiting as much, if not more, than those we serve. So whenever you feel a bit lost, in pain, or stuck with your own issues, try to shift your focus from your circumstances to the circumstances of those around you. Finding someone who could use a little kindness is all around you and an act of kindness on your part will only take a few minutes. I read something recently that made so much sense and it went something like this: Five years from now, it won't really matter what shoes you wore today, how your hair looked, what brand of clothing you wore or what TV program your watched. What will matter is how you lived, how you extended acts of kindness and what you learned along the way.
When was the last time you said "I Like You" to someone? Not "I Love You", but rather, "I Like You". Whom did you say this to? What was their response? Do you know that saying those few little words can change someone's outlook on life? When we say "I Like You", we're giving an amazing gift to someone. We're validating who they are, sharing with them that we hold them in respectful esteem and care deeply about them. Our character shines through every time we utter the words "I Like You". Being humble at the mountaintops in our lives, strong in the valleys and difficult times, and faithful in between will enhance our lives as we move forward with acts of kindness. My encouragement is for you not to have "random" acts of kindness, but rather "regular" acts of kindness. Treat everyone with kindness and respect, even those who are rude to you - not because they are nice, but because you are.
Your physician who believe in "heart healing", Dr. Ashish Sachdeva
PS: As the patient I wrote about in this article left my office, I had a strong feeling that her time was near, I lifted both her hands kissed them and I told her that I loved her ! For a moment I saw my late mothers face , smiling back at me, whispering , “God Bless you my son, I am so proud of you”! I quietly walked into my office for some quiet time. I hope I touched her heart half as much as she touched mine ...