I took my mother for a follow-up appointment at the orthopedic surgeon’s office yesterday. She broke her leg, and simultaneously dislocated the old hip-replacement on that leg, (last fall) and is doing so well that she only needs her cane once in a while; a pretty remarkable recovery for anyone, but especially for someone who is going to be 87 this year.
At her appointment, as she began to walk down the hall, she spotted the PA who had seen her a couple of months earlier and said, “Aren’t I doing great!?” He quickly, without a smile, glanced in her direction and said, “You’re doing pretty well”, while turning into his office.
He isn’t a super-animated guy but my first thought was, “How ungenerous”. What would it have cost him to smile and say something kind, especially when it was the truth. But he didn’t, and he missed an opportunity to feel better, although I don’t think he knew this.
Oddly, this brought me back to a hike I was on with my son Tom when he was about 11 years old. He’d made a spear from a stick and a sharp rock and wanted to try to catch a fish with it, and as he showed it to me I said, “You will never catch a fish with that.” I remember the deflated look on his young face. How that memory still stings. What an ungenerous thing for me to say. What would it have cost me to say, “Wonderful!” I missed an opportunity to feel better, but I didn’t know this at that time.
We will be remembered for what we have given to the world.
So many times we think that we have nothing to offer if we can’t give money, a gift, practical advice, or something tangible, and this couldn’t be further from the truth. We can give generous thought and words. We can give kind, loving, observations. We can notice and congratulate others on a job well-done or on a good effort. We can give an honest, open-hearted smile. We can notice what is right, what is good, what is praise-worthy….. and we can tell it.
“Being generous of spirit is a wonderful way to live.” Pete Seeger