Tuesday, February 22, 2011
DR. PATCH ADAMS - Dealing with Suffering
Walk into any public place and you are bound to run into a problem of one sort or another playing out before your eyes. Parents fighting with unruly kids; customers complaining about one thing or another; people getting into fights and brawls. Just driving somewhere, it's impossible to avoid road rage. Turning away and tuning out may give you a moment of solace, but it doesn't erase the truth. It may temporarily shelter you from negativity allowing you to languish in your own narrow sense of positivism. However, how can you really feel pride and self confidence when you are contributing to the problem rather than stepping in to lend a hand?
Everyone makes excuses! We've all heard them echoed time and time again. "I've got my own problems to contend with!" "That's their country's problem! Let them tend to their own!" "They deserved it!" "You can't solve the world's problems over night!" "It's not my business to interfere!" "It all media hype." "Damned bleeding heart liberals!" "I'm just one person. What can I do?" "What is it you want of me?" "I'll be dead by then so what does it matter?!?" Go ahead. Don't you let other's suffering ruin your good day.
Conflict. Pain. Anger. Hostility. Suffering. Crime. War. Victimization, and yes... Hatred. There is too much of it! Doesn't that make you mad? Of course it does if you have an ounce of humanity in you! But how many of you have actually stepped up to the plate to make a difference? Huh?
Last night I sat in on a lecture by a truly amazing man. Dr. Hunter Doherty Patch Adams. He is the man who brought laughter, humor, and compassion into the field of medicine. He has worked for 40 years as a Family Practitioner and has never charged so much as a dime for his services. He has never bedded up with Big Pharma, the Insurance Industry, Government Propaganda or Capitalism. He doesn't buy into the system and that is what makes him so incredible. He's not wealthy. He lives in a commune. But he's probably the richest man in the world! He has a wealth of goodwill and happiness.
He knows how laughter, a simple smile, clowning can bring light into the darkest places. He has visited hospitals, prisons, orphanages, referee camps, nursing homes, mental institutions, prisons, long term care facilities, and war zones worldwide. He responds to the calls of the neediest. He enters the most horrible nightmarish settings of monumental suffering where all hope is lost and has brought a ray of sunshine. He doesn't accept being put up in nice hotels, being fed anything better than the people he offers his own unique brand of support to and all money earned from speaking engagements goes to his foundation - the Gesundheit Institute, a hospital offering free care and natural therapies.
He explained how although holding a child who has never been loved or held brings tears to his eyes, it also offers him rewards that money could never buy. He is not a religious man so to say, but he prays with families of every background and culture, with love and respect shown towards their traditions. From Atheist to Zoroastrianism, his heart is open to spirituality of any sort, and for that moment he is one and the same with the suffering and those facing immeasurable pain and loss. He'll tell you - "Faith works!" He combines a deep reverence for all mankind with clowning to lighten the hearts of those in pain, and it works. He spreads love, the most important resource in this world, and yet as he says, "We can go from preschool to our post doc and beyond, and not once do we learn anything about its powers." The college students at Northeastern University agreed it's the one area of life they feel least prepared for.
So how do we learn to walk in his shoes when for most of us, they are far too big to fill? First of all we must change our perspective. Don't say I'd like to change; I could change; I should change; I'll try to change. Say I WILL CHANGE!!! It's a decision! Make it and stick to it!
Start small. It's in the slightest actions that we can begin to make changes that affect the lives of others in the most profound ways. Try holding a door for someone; smile at a stranger; laugh at loud for no reason at all (even if it's feigned) and watch genuine smiles come over the faces of those standing near by; clown around with a child who's crying and screaming and watch a smile come over their face. Don't be so serious, uptight and professional - dare to be goofy! Let the child in you come out and shine. Prehaps be a little bit naughty. Laughter is far more infectious than the common cold. It connects people on the spot, forming intimacy. Best of all it's FREE and easy to do!
Don't turn a blind eye to pain. It will always be there and someday, it may be you on the receiving end. Roll up you sleeves (or in Patches case, he rolls up the legs of his oversized clown pants and pulls the waist up under his arms). Be a clown and make them laugh. We WILL make a difference. We CAN make this a better world. WE ALL HAVE THE POWER TO HEAL!!!