My daughter, who is seven, just joined the children’s choir at our church.  She went to practice tonight and came home and told me what she had done.  There was ‘no singing!’  She was bumfuzzled.  She joined the choir to sing, and was aghast that she didn’t get to exercise her beautiful little pipes tonight.

But then she told me that she had played a game to get to know everyone.  ‘We passed a yellow Frisbee around, and whoever was holding it had to say their name, and where they went to school and, you know, what was good about them!’

I loved that line.  What was good about them!  How often do we ask that?  In medicine, we spend most of our time asking ‘what’s bad about me!’  Our organizational consultants, our administrators, our surveyors and colleagues all seem focused on finding the error, the problem, the chink in our armor, collectively and individually.  We go home and wonder what we’ve done wrong, and how we can do more, faster, better tomorrow.  ‘What’s good about me?’  Too little, I suspect we would answer.

But it goes further.  What’s good about our patients?  We don’t usually know, or try to know.  We spend our days and nights trying to find out what’s wrong with them.   We’re focused, as physicians, on sickness, brokenness, death, dying, disability.  How seldom we actually get to say (or want to say), ‘you look great!’  ‘You’re so healthy!’  ‘You have a beautiful child.’  ‘You seem to be very talented and good!’

And in the worst situations, we’re focused on their lives; nothing, we believe, is very good about our drug addicts, violent drunks, drug dealers, hookers, hypochondriacs or any of the rest.  What’s good about them?  Who knows, we think in frustration.

I wonder, without sounding sugar sweet and gullible, if we should spend more time trying to figure out what’s wonderful about ourselves and our friends, so that we can more easily ask the same thing about the patients we have dedicated ourselves to treating.

What’s so good about me?  Plenty.  And also you.  And in God’s eyes, all of the rest of the assorted flotsam of humanity that passes in and out of our lives every single day.

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