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What have you done ... lately?
Monday January 21, 2013


Driving home from work during the holidays, I couldn’t help but pay attention to the lyrics of a John Lennon song on the radio: "So this is Christmas/And what have you done/Another year over/And a new one just begun."

The second line rang in my ears: What have I done this past year that was worthwhile and left a "mark"? I know working with patients and teaching students certainly count. My "pro bono" service during the holidays also may rank. But these are within my job description. I searched for an answer outside of my work.

So I joined a local charity that feeds homeless people during the holidays. And what an experience it was! I learned I wasn’t good at mixing a giant pan of baked beans. An MMT grade of 5/5 is not enough to work a large paddle through this viscose substance. But paddle I did, for the benefit of the homeless folks waiting for their meal. I learned I also wasn’t the fastest at spreading peanut butter on bread and then slicing it into triangles. I found myself making sure the peanut butter didn’t drip over the sides and that the bread was cut into perfect triangles. In contrast, the fastest volunteers used a "smack and cut" approach, not concerned about peanut butter drips and perfect triangles.

My awkward moments were not unnoticed by the other volunteers and stirred some laughter in the kitchen. They told me speed and efficiency are keys in serving the many people that needed to be fed.

However, when the guests lined up, to my surprise, I attracted the longest line. I figured they were just curious about me because I was new. But one of the people I served told me the real reason: "You have the neatest sandwiches, and you don’t allow the corn to get mixed up with the baked beans. It is like you are giving more than 100% in serving quality food, and that makes us feel like humans again."

I must confess I had to take a gulp of fruit punch to hold back a tear.

As we said goodbye to the many people we fed that day, some of them came by and asked if I would be back next year — with other physical therapists! They felt the extra care I put into serving them that day stemmed from my career, and they wanted to meet more of us.

On my way home that day, the same John Lennon song played on the radio. This time, I was satisfied with my answer to the second line. However, it made me wonder what other PTs had done during the past year that was "outside the box" and left a positive mark on someone’s life — if even for a moment. •

Monday January 21, 2013
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