Archive for December, 2017

DCW’s Mantra

Thursday, December 28th, 2017

DCW’s Mantra

One Day at a Time
Stay in the Moment
Do the Next Right Thing
Never Give Up

Some years ago, I attended an Emergency Medical Support (EMS) conference in Marquette. As an EMT, I am required to attend training sessions and submit proof of them when I recertify with the state every 3 years. The keynote speech of this particular conference was given by EMS advocate and emergency physician Dennis Whitehead. Honestly, I remember very little about his talk, but I do remember the second to the last slide in his presentation. It was titled DCW’s Mantra and had only 4 lines of text. He explained that this short list has helped him in his life.

I am not fast with pen and paper, and Dr. Whitehead very fast with his mouth. Before I was able to copy the whole thing in my notebook, he had moved on to his last slide, which said something like, “Thank-you, Questions?” Doc got a deserved standing ovation for his talk that day, and I was left with an incomplete mantra in my notebook. What to do?

After his talk, Doc was quickly surrounded by well-wishers with questions. His laptop on the podium was unguarded. From my seat front row/center, I walked up to the podium, found the back-arrow button on his computer, punched it, and beheld the second to the last slide up on the screen (sometimes it pays to know how to run PowerPoint.) I sat back down, finished copying the mantra, and then hurried to my next class.

When I got home, I transcribed those powerful words onto my computer, printed them out, and posted them on the bulletin board next to my computer screen. They have been there ever since. Not only has this simple wisdom helped me, but I’ve shared with others too. Over the years as other family and friends needed some encouragement, Alice and I have sent the mantra along and received thanks.

Recently one of our dear friends had a medical issue and Alice sent her an email which included the mantra. Her husband transcribed the text onto a sheet of paper and taped it on the closet door along with some artwork from other well wishers. If I were in a hospital bed, that is the sort of thing I’d like to look out and see. It is sometimes hard to know what to do in situations like these, and those few simple words might provide a clue.

I was so pleased with the good that Alice’s email had done, that I searched and found Dr. Whitehead’s email address, and sent him an email explaining how his words had helped in my life and others’ over the years. Here is his response slightly edited:

Hi Ted:

A great pleasure to hear from you. I’ve given many talks over the years to EMS groups and emergency physicians, and I’m always delighted to hear something I once said had “good legs” and helped others. I’m gratified to learn this was one of them.

You made my day. Maybe we’ll run into one another sometime. Happy New Year to you and yours.


Saying Goodbye

Friday, December 15th, 2017

A friend posted a sad one on Facebook the other day. His beloved dog had to be put down. The sadness was just dripping off the few words that went along with the closeup picture of his dog’s face. I felt it in my gut.

I’ve had to say goodbye to 3 pets that way, a dog and two cats. It has been said you can be a dog person or a cat person, but not both. I do like both, but if I had to choose, I’d take the dog every time. I remember the day when I had to day goodbye to our German Shepherd Panzer. The poor old guy couldn’t use his strength to lift up his rear end. The vet and our family decided it was time to end this, so that is what we did. Panzer trusted me to carry him to the table in the clinic, and we looked at each other while the vet was busy finding a vein. I put my hand by his nose, and he sniffed, knew it was me, licked my hand, and was gone.

These are sad thoughts, but important ones. Panzer lived a life that had meaning for his family. We still grieve after 15 years of absence. We’ll all face a day when we can’t get up, and when that next elusive breath will be hard to catch. Did we live a life that meant something to the people around us? The time to think about it is not at the end of your life, but right now. Try to spend every day being a person that will be missed when you are gone.

How I Adjusted

Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

This morning did not start well. As I was preparing a breakfast for myself, I turned on NPR news, as is my habit. I learned the Senate passed their tax reform bill at about 2:00 this morning with 51 votes. This vote follows on the heels of a affirming vote on a similar bill in the House some weeks ago. We can next expect the two bodies to work together to forge a version of this bill that both can agree with, another vote, and a signature from a willing president.

In a few sentences, I’ve described the process of transferring a large amount of money from the middle class to the wealthiest among us, with the promise that the transfer will spur such tremendous economic growth that the taxes generated will pay for the additional trillion plus deficit spending over 10 years.

This 500 page bill was negotiated in secret by the party in power, and provided to the members of the senate 2 hours before they were to vote. The copy was so poor that parts of the hand written changes were cut off in the photocopying process. It was one of the most shameful examples of our public officials jamming an unpopular bill through that I’ve witnessed in my 65 years.

I had a couple of choices on how to proceed with my day. After enjoying the breakfast that I made, I thought about some advice I gave my son when he went away to college. “Spend as much time as you can with exceptional people.” Some pretty unexceptional people had managed to put a dark slant on my morning, so I became determined to turn that around.

In my youth, my parents, bless them, saw to it we had a World Book encyclopedia in our home. When we had questions about most anything, it was a good place to start. To this day, I am thankful my parents were progressive enough to understand the importance of a purchase like that on a limited household budget. Today, if you can afford the cost of an internet connection, you can do so much better than that encyclopedia of 60 years ago. I’d recently listened to a Freakonomics ™ interview with Larry Summers, so I turned to Youtube ™ and looked up some of his speeches.

I don’t know if his macro-economics distracted me from my depression, or if the message he spoke so eloquently did, but spending an hour and a half with Larry Summers today did the trick. I know, as I’ve probably known all along, that there are lots of smart, capable, and good-hearted people out there that can do the right thing if called upon. I hope that this terrible tide in our political lives will change for the better as it always done in the past. I hope for the day when rational discourse and debate in our lawmaking bodies will replace the vitriol that currently reins.

While I’m waiting for that day to come, I plan to spend some more time learning about and listening to people like Sarah Cheyes. This award winning NPR journalist covered the war in Afganistan until she resigned in 2002, and started a cooperative in Kandahar to help local farmers find an outlet for their produce, thereby giving them an alternative from the opium poppy crops they have found so lucrative. Sarah learned Pashto to better enable her to work with her new neighbors to improve their lives.

I think it is inevitable that we’ll be exposed to villains and heroes in our daily walk through life. And it is probably inevitable that the villains will often make the most noise. When it happens, I’ve decided to seek out the heroes wherever I can find them, and if I can find a clip on Youtube ™ where I can listen to their words and watch their eyes, so much the better. I’m ready to call it a day, and I hope for a better tomorrow.