Below is a critical and poignant essay that David Harder, speaker, life coach, and author, regularly puts out. I’ve known David for years through Jack Canfield. His essays are always full of truisms and the hope that springs forward from human resiliency, and I often find myself quoting him during speaking engagements.
However, this time, I had to share this particular one with you because (1) many of you will relate to what he writes about from your own personal experiences; (2) many of you work in a field impacted by such things; (3) my steadfast passion about educating specialists and the public at large about how to be there for someone in grief pain continues. It all ties together.
I know you will get a lot out of this beautiful article.
Love to you all.
Five weeks ago, I was walking a bowl of soup down the stairs to my kitchen. I slipped. I flew. I fell hard on the landing breaking three ribs. I crawled to the phone and called friends. They rushed over. Paramedics were called. I was rolled out of my home, said hi to a few neighbors and taken to Cedars. The next morning, an aptly named “Trauma Team” walked into my room with the results of a Cat Scan.? The lead physician said, “if you don’t have this procedure, which is very difficult, your probability of dying is 80%. I had profuse internal bleeding. Now I’m a fairly tough guy but he brought in an intern and a medical student who wouldn’t talk to me. The three stood in the corner of the room as the lead described how to make an incision in my chest and than pound a quarter inch pipe into the lung cavity. It would be done under local anesthesia with my arm tied overhead. I was ready for the worst not realizing they were going to be doing this directly over three broken ribs. They began. No one spoke to me. Their dialogue was coldly clinical amongst each other. About ten minutes into the work, I asked if they could stop to let me catch my breath. A moment passed, no one spoke to me and than the horrible unrelenting pressure started again. I started to convulse. They spoke to each other in meaningless medical terms. I started cursing like a stevedore. One of the doctors went to the phone and made a call saying I was “having trouble” and should he call “legal.” I swore again and said, “If you just spoke to me, if you just connected, if you just treated me like a human being, you wouldn’t be calling ‘legal.'” The tube was finished and a couple of hours later, I was admitted into my room – the Four Seasons of hospitals. That evening, my primary physician, Art Lipper, came to the door; about my age, with this kindly, interested, humorous demeanor. He looked at me and said, “You’ve been through hell.” I nodded. He came closer to the bed, touched my shoulder and added, “Listen, you’ve been through the worst. You are going to get this. It will take just a few days and I will come in every day to see how you are. I’m here for you.” Art walked out the door.
We give a great deal of lip service to emotional intelligence. Our medical schools don’t teach it. Emotional intelligence continues to be taught almost exclusively in highly functional, loving and attentive homes, which is certainly not the norm in our culture. The other area where people learn it is therapy and coaching. But how much of our talent has it? How many workers know how to connect, to pay attention, to naturally be kind, to truly be human? What has happened to us as a culture where so many professionals are too busy to give words of encouragement? To acknowledge, this is tough and I’m here for you? To give us gentleness and kindness at that critical moment? The men who worked on me were great clinicians, Had they become great humans, I probably wouldn’t be writing a “trauma” story. How much trauma do we unknowingly inflict in more routine circumstances, simply because we are not listening to our words and paying attention to our body language? My colleague, Tim Hart, talks about how emotional intelligence is the single most needed skill in today’s workplace and it is also the one that is the most difficult to find. We’ve placed so much value on technical skills coupled with frenzy, a wild eyed, madly running culture responding to hundreds of irrelevant e-mails and meetings, sitting in commutes that get longer everyday. It’s easy to miss the point of why we are alive, which brings me to the second half of today’s story.
We had an Inspired Work Program scheduled the weekend after my injury. My colleagues were begging me not to do it. I was in excruciating pain. I’d stand up and start shaking. The dressing had to be changed regularly. But, I had connected with many of the people coming into that room and I knew their stories. I could see what would happen if we delivered the program that week and I could clearly see the lost opportunities if we delayed the program for a month. I was the only one who knew this. No one was available that week to do it for me. As the participants walked in and saw me glued to a chair, many must of thought, “Is he going to die?” When everyone was seated, I said, “If any of you are thinking about not doing the work, here is what happened this past week.” Forty-eight hours later, everyone got what they came for – breakthroughs, clarity, miracles, resolution. While I was driven home, I thought to myself, “How many times did I stop doing something because of the difficulties around me?” “Why is it that after sixteen years, being a part of these peoples lives is as new and as fresh as the first time?” And, I realized that all of these strangers connected in the way that I wanted those physicians to connect with me. To say something. To ask how I was doing. To look me in the eye. Not many years ago, I was one of them. Meet the quota,? make the money, push, push, don’t think too much because if I do, I’ll connect with the complete lack of meaning and joy in my work. There’s a marginal producer. I’ll fire him on Friday. That was sixteen years ago. I looked out the window of the car as Beverly Hills sped past and thought of what happened that weekend. I realized that I had found a purpose and a life that is non-negotiable. I wept.
As you may surmise, I have much more to share. Much has been learned. I hope some of it is valuable to you.
A deep thanks to all of my friends, colleagues and clients who were there for me this past month; who looked in on me; who paid attention. I will never forget you.
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