Tom Shares “A Ha” Moments at the Book Club

June 4, 2013
We were recently forwarded this inspiring and grounding email from Tom Weitzel, who is leading a book club on Up the Mood Elevator.


Hi book club members,

For those of you that were able to participate, you may recall that this week’s topic in our book club discussion was the “Attitude of Gratitude” and that I had shared how, although I agree that being grateful does provide perspective, my struggle was getting beyond agreeing with this in my head to truly feeling it in my heart.

Yesterday morning I had a couple of “a ha” moments and thought I’d share.

I was doing my morning reading and quiet time and read an excerpt from Bill Frist, who was the US Senate Majority Leader, but by trade was a surgeon.  His specialization was organ transplants.  He shared about the process of doing a transplant.  How he will get called out in the middle of the night to fly to some hospital he’s never been to, perform surgery with people he’s never worked with on a patient he’s never met, then fly the organ back to his hospital to perform the transplant.  All of this has to work perfectly.  It cannot take more than 4 hours total, his staff cannot misinterpret blood type or be delayed in prepping the patient for surgery when he arrives, and he cannot make any mistakes in either of the surgeries.  If anything goes wrong, the patient dies.  He can’t put the bad heart back in.  That’s it.  If that happens, he has a family whose loved one was alive a few hours earlier, and who have their hopes up that the person will be “cured,” just to find out that it’s over.  No other options.

Lesson 1:  If I fail, no one dies.

  Fear of failure is a powerful emotion that leads to second guessing and, in sports terms, “playing not to lose” rather than “playing to win.”  No matter how bad I may fail, no one will die.  At the very worst, if I completely fail, people will be inconvenienced, probably irritated, but no one dies.  There’s freedom in understanding that.

Dr. Frist went on to share about going on a medical mission trip to the Sudan.  He was in a remote location that had a one room building with no electricity, no running water, basic surgical tools, and ether for anesthetic.  People travelled for days from hundreds of miles away to receive treatment because it had been years since any medical treatment was available.  He performed surgeries from daybreak until well into the night, using flashlights when it became dark.

Lesson 2:  I’m so spoiled.

  As I was reading this, it occurred to me that I had flipped on light switches without giving a thought to whether or not the lights would come on.  I took a hot shower for as long as I wanted without it even entering my mind that I couldn’t.  Then Cooper (my English Bulldog) came bounding over to me to play and it struck me:  my dog has better medical care available to him than millions of people around the world.  I’m very, very fortunate.

In the Sudan, after doing long hours of surgery, Dr. Frist was told someone wanted “the doctor from America” to visit him.  When he entered the thatched hut, in the dark, he said there was just the image of a man in the corner. When the man saw him enter, he began smiling, which was nearly all the doctor could make out of the man in the dark.  Through a translator, the man went on to describe how his wife and children had been murdered in the civil war and how he had lost his leg and hand from stepping on a land mine.  All the time, Dr. Frist said the man’s smile got wider and wider.  So he asked why he was smiling.  The man’s reply was that Dr. Frist was from America.  In America people have freedom to do what they wanted to do, believe what they wanted to believe, to get the care when needed.  He was smiling because he believed that his sacrifices would ultimately lead to the Sudan having the type of freedom that we have in America.

Lesson 3:  I’m such a baby.

  I get stressed out about projects and deadlines and bills, but here is a guy who has lost his family and literally parts of his body, yet he is not complaining.  He is focusing on the hope he has for the future.  By comparison, my reasons to complain are embarrassing.  I have so much more already, and so much more to hope for in the future.  In the grand scheme of things, we really have won the “life lottery.”  Of the 6 or 7 billion people on the planet, we are among the relative few who were lucky enough to be born here, to have freedoms and conveniences we take for granted, and to have such incredibly menial things to complain about.

So for me, I had a bit of an epiphany this morning.  It’s helped me to feel much more genuine gratitude, which is leading a much better perspective and ultimately a lot of humility.  I’m going to do my best to carry this attitude forward and remind myself of these lessons when I start to get stressed and fall down on the “mood elevator.”

I wanted to share and hope that maybe this could be some encouragement for you as well.