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The past few days have shown me some small pleasures of my practice.  I spent about 20 minutes sewing together the hand and forehead of a sweet elderly lady who fell down while being evacuated from a nursing home fire.  Her skin, like tissue, came together in fragile folds; my hands moved easily with the needle and thread thanks to so many years of practice, so many hundreds of feet of sutures placed.  Although I must admit that my cataract-stricken right eye left my depth perception imperfect in a way that bonded me to her.  (Sitting here, with no reading glasses, I can close my left eye and all I see is a hint of lines on the page, but no letters.)

My sweet little lady smiled at me, nervously, tentatively, but was comforted at the prospect of  going back to her bed.  Her son eased her fear with  jokes, then took her home.

At the opposite end of the chronological spectrum, I have lately seen so many children with fevers.  In addition to the standard fears of pneumonia and strep-throat, parents are terribly concerned about H1N1.  It is such a joy to reassure a worried parent, to tell them the fever doesn’t seem to be from any sinister disease.  To say, in all honesty,  ‘my kids did that!’  To speak in hopeful tones as they struggle with the fear of some incipient, unknown medical nightmare that may harm their wee ones. They smile when they feel their fears melt away.

And of course, the wee ones.  I love them.  I love their faces and smiles.  I love the way they can look so afraid.  One of medicine’s greatest challenges and greatest rewards is learning to approach children in such a way, with such a touch, such a love that they know they have nothing to fear.  I love sitting by them, playing with their toys for a few seconds and just talking with them in all their open innocence.   They smile at me; great, toothless smiles with perfect, clear, open eyes.

I hope that they smile because they do not fear.  I like to think that they smile, not because of me, but because they see Christ in me; love and hope and gentleness and wisdom.  I like to think they smile at Him, in fact, and He smiles back.

Troubles there are in medicine; yet pleasures and wonders remain.  In the torn skin repaired, the worried face smiling, the febrile child laughing.

Whatever happens to us, politically or economically, no one can take those joys, those wonders, unless we give them up.  And why would we?  Those joys are not earned by election or purchased with dollars; they are gained in the long battle of all night call, of endless lectures and reading, of countless decisions and untold concerned, seeking, caring touches.  They are our own, purchased with our youth and our weariness.  And they need never be lost.


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