As dinner time grew close, the family members of several of the staff brought in wrapped plates from the family dinner table. My family would have never heard of doing such a thing. According to my mother, my current holiday lot was my own doing.
"You're the one that wanted to be a nurse".
Several codes and a food bolus dislodgement later left me wondering if I did, in fact, want to be a nurse.
As often would happen in this facility, someone ate my lunch.
I moped and sulked through the first 4 hours of my shift. Admissions were winning 3 to 1 over discharges. It was truly getting hectic, and my mood was deteriorating beyond morose.
I was wrapping a relatively large hand wound, and giving instructions to a fine gentleman who just happened to have been minding his own business and was attacked viciously just a few blocks from the hospital. As most of you know who have worked ER, minding your own business can tragically result in anything from gunshot wounds to beatings with a baseball bat.
"I'll bet you've had your Thanksgiving dinner," I said...with just a touch of bitterness in my voice.
"Well yup," my quiet little patient replied, "I did."
"Really?" I said. "And what did you have exactly?"
I wasn't wallowing in enough self-pity already. I needed to know.
"Oh, well, I had a great turkey sandwich at the shelter."
Oh, cripes I thought. A great turkey sandwich at the shelter. No cranberries. No mashed potatoes. No Norman Rockwell scene with happy, clean people chatting around the dinner table. Not even close to anything I was missing in my tiny cube of a brain.
All the things I hadn't noticed. He was wearing 3 layers of clothes. Layer number one was a newspaper. He had duct tape holding his shoes together. There likely may have been small things living under his hat.
And he was happy. He had a sandwich at the shelter.
I wanted to crawl under a rock. I was so wrapped up in my own misery that I failed to see another's misfortune. And I was the one being ungrateful. Being ungrateful for a job, my health, and family...even though they hadn't come through with the stuffing and mashed potatoes that others had received. I felt humiliated and ashamed. What kind of a selfish, spoiled human being was I?
I still remember this patient, 22 years later. Every time I do, I am astounded at my total lack of ability to step outside myself.
I have such gratitude for this simple man that opened my eyes to my own self-absorption. Never again will I take for granted anything in my life. I silently thank him for the gift of appreciation for even the tiniest and most basic things we are given every day. In such a dirty place, with such horrible weather just outside the door, my eyes were truly opened to the beauty around me.