Recently, I attended our state association convention in Philadelphia. It had been awhile since my schedule permitted me to attend a conference in my own state. Old acquaintances were renewed and new relationships begun.
As the convention got into full swing, and almost without conscious awareness, a component of the conference emerged that truly provided the best part of the entire weekend. So as not to keep you in too much suspense, the part I am talking about was the unexpected delight of bumping into old friends I have not seen for many years; friendships that were made during the early "wars" to advance the profession.
In the earlier years, those "old warriors" always were there when they were needed. They were there with money when money was sparse; they were there with their time, which was very limited; and most important of all, they were there in person when warm bodies were needed most. As those who do event planning know, nothing replaces the actual attendance of an individual doctor during important functions, and these warriors always could be counted on.
Seeing these colleagues created a wonderful atmosphere of nostalgia and provided a time for everyone to relive fond memories and reminisce about long-ago battles - some won, some lost, but all having their place in this "bond of friendship" that transcends time and daily contact.
As we got together over coffee and food, there emerged what we fondly called "war story" time: each of us remembering and recounting those precious memories of fighting for a common cause, striving to advance our profession, energized by the challenges and fortified in our belief that chiropractic deserved a place in the health care system. The retelling of those events re-created the moment as if time had not passed.
Since I rarely am without a book, during the few quiet hours between the end of the conference day and the start of the next day, I took a few minutes to read before going to sleep. How fortunate to have a copy of James Stovall's The Ultimate Gift. As I finished the book that weekend, it reminded me of the similarities between the lessons we learn in life and how they apply to chiropractic.
I've always thought chiropractors have many gifts, even when they seem obscured by many obstacles. The Ultimate Gift creates an outline upon which one could build an attitude of thanks. The following are a few concepts the book helped to reinforce, clarify and crystallize:
The Gift of Work: Strangely, chiropractic never seems to be work, per se, since it provides us so much pleasure in not only helping patients, but also teaching them about a new paradigm of health care. If there is a certain love that comes from doing a job well, every DC must feel a sense of infatuation with his or her practice. I don't know many other professionals who smile when they are working as much as patient-centered chiropractors do. When you do what you love to do, work ceases to be work.
The Gift of Money: DCs can earn a good living in their practice and in return, are able to help so many people in need. Money is a tool given to us to use wisely and any tool works best in skilled hands; and hands of a DC are skilled. Money is not the end; money is the byproduct of service provided.
The Gift of Friends: Fighting for a common cause provides the basis for building long-standing friendships. Unfortunately, many people do not realize how many DCs have truly become good friends because of the common love for chiropractic. The bonds of friendship are strengthened during times of crisis and that strength is there forever.
The Gift of Learning: Attending the seminars at the conference reinforced the notion of continual learning; not only learning about health care, but also learning the many relationship skills it takes to run a people business. We all need to remember, "You don't sell adjustments, you're selling relationships." All too often, we do not realize the intellectual rut we have fallen into, and learning is the way.
The Gift of Problems: As the conversation with old friends continued into the night, it was obvious it was not the easy victories that were memorable, but the fight to achieve the difficult ones. Problems are not obstacles; they are ways to demonstrate creativity in surmounting them. Problems only serve to provide experience and institutional memory that help develop a better plan in the next battle.
The Gift of Family: Despite being occasionally somewhat dysfunctional, the chiropractic family remains well and vibrant. We can get rid of a few sources of unease in our chiropractic family's health; in doing so, we will emerge strong and healthy. I believe the chiropractic family enjoys a strong bond, and this reunion of longtime friends continues to reinforce the notion that chiropractic is family.
The Gift of Laughter: The cornerstone of good health must begin with a be-healthy attitude, and at the top of that list is the ability to laugh and to laugh at ourselves. While many immediate obstacles seem to prevent this laughter from taking place, reflection and time always seem to enable one to laugh at the victories and the defeats. We should employ this trait as early as possible and avoid long bouts of cynicism.
The Gift of Dreams: Without a dream, we don't live life to its fullest. We only exist from day to day. Dreams are the nutrients for the soul. Fortunately, in chiropractic we always have had some dreamers. We have indeed been blessed as a profession with those who dared to dream big dreams and make them happen.
The Gift of Giving: Yes, as at every conference, there was the usual request for money and contributions to worthy causes from legislation to litigation. The true attitude to adopt for giving is not to give 'till it hurts, but to give 'till it feels good.
The Gift of Gratitude: More than just for our ability to help patients regain their health, most DCs need to develop a sense of gratitude to persevere against the odds that often prevent us from taking our concepts to the world of people in need. I often wonder if the current generation of DCs is as grateful to chiropractic as were the 15,000 who went to jail. An attitude of gratitude is not to be considered a given, but rather a trait to be worked on every day.
The Gift of Love: Love was defined once as helping others solve their problems as if they were your own. In this light, we DCs love a lot of people, and their love in return is a much greater reward than the fee that is paid to us. In the words of Mother Theresa, "Do not think that love in order to be genuine has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies."
The Ultimate Gift: How can any successful DC not feel the ultimate gift? In the end, life lived to its fullest is its own ultimate gift. As Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, writes, "What epitaph do you want printed on your tombstone?" To have loved, to have learned, to have lived fully and to leave a legacy is the ultimate gift anyone could hope for.
So, this convention weekend provided an unexpected trip down memory lane. It was a chance to be with old friends. Despite time and distance, the wonderful camaraderie has not diminished, making it appear we had seen each other just yesterday.
I lament the fact that while we are more connected today with the Internet, our cell phones and Blackberrys, we are less connected by that which is impossible to duplicate in that virtual world ... hugs. It often is so helpful to take a few steps back and recognize we truly are in a wonderfully connected world, but there is immeasurable value in sitting side by side, eye to eye and capturing the intimacy of friendship that no other mode of connectivity can duplicate. Sorry, but e-mail does not hug back.
Maybe that human touch, that chiropractic hug, is the best reason of all for DCs to go to meetings, see old friends and begin new relationships. Friendships will transcend all of the issues, challenges, disagreements and differences with which we will ever be confronted.
Maybe it is time to take a step back and use our hands to hug, our words to encourage and our hearts to find harmony, rather than using them only to send a message by keyboard. These are just some old-fashioned thoughts in this new world we live in. Maybe the ultimate gift truly is our memories.
Pick up the phone and call someone you've been thinking about. Your day will be brighter.
Click here for more information about Louis Sportelli, DC.