Guest blogger Scott Newport often introduces himself as “just a carpenter.” But he’s also a man of great dreams, and today he shares a story of an act of kindness that is encouraging him to be “just a carpenter” and much more to parents of kids with special needs.
I’m Just a Carpenter
Even though I’m just a carpenter by trade, on occasion I spend time working in a pediatric I.C.U. setting with doctors and nurses. I know it sounds crazy, but I have a son, Evan, who had Noonan’s syndrome and is now waiting for me in heaven. Because of my seven years with him, I use that experience to mentor other families of sick kids.
Last month I spent time with first-year medical students, teaching them about the patient and family side of medicine. Yesterday, though, I was at a training session for parent and professional teams. The two-person teams were either from health care organizations or state agencies that help kids with special needs. The purpose of the all-day event was to develop stronger leadership abilities.
I didn’t know anyone there except for Dr. D’Anna Soul, a young physician who agreed to attend with me. D’Anna and I had never spent much time together, even though we share a common mission of helping families of terminally ill children. Our team represented C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan. A prerequisite was to identify a project we are working on, which for us is to rename our hospice and palliative services at the hospital as Stepping Stones.
The meeting started out with an ice breaker—you know, one of those activities with the purpose of getting folks acquainted and making people feel less nervous.
“Okay, teams,” the facilitator said, “I want you to interview someone in the room you don’t know and find out what their likes, dislikes, and hobbies are. When you get done, you will introduce your new friend to the group.”
Across from D’Anna and I were two ladies. Before I knew it, one of the women said, “Hi Scott, my name is Linda and I’m a speech therapist.” While I listened to Linda, Dr. D’Anna listened to the other woman who wore a yellow, flowery dress.
When it was time for the woman in the yellow dress to introduce D’Anna, it became apparent that the middle-aged woman had a severe speech impediment. I found out later that this woman had had a stroke and struggled to form the words her mind wanted to convey.
I immediately became nervous and felt helpless, though in my heart, I felt I should do something. Afraid to even look around the room, I knew everyone probably felt the same. It was like someone had shut the windows and the room would soon suffocate ua.
“D’Anna go—,” she said. She tried to form a sentence , but it was like shoveling out heavy concrete that was now setting up, with no way to slow down the solidification.
“D’Anna go—,” the woman tried again. There was more silence, then more struggling for the right words.
Within seconds D’Anna helped her new friend articulate words in a gentle voice. I’d never seen anything like that. The woman’s eyes tilted up slightly in acknowledgment. Her yellow dress seemed even brighter than it had been before.
Every time the woman said, “D’Anna go—”, D’Anna filled in the blanks. “D’Anna likes to read and help heal sick children.”
When the two sat back down, it felt like a window had been opened and a subtle September morning breeze had entered the room. I desperately wanted to write down a reflection of that moment; to write something I could share with D’Anna one day. I learned so much about D’Anna and how proud I am she took time to attend the training.
I’m just a carpenter but D’Anna and I share a passion for families. Today I feel like I have a true partner that will never let me down. She will surely fill in the blanks when I get jammed up and don’t know the rights words to say. And I hope to become a person who opens a window for families when they suddenly find themselves feeling suffocated by their child’s diagnosis of a complex medical condition. Together I think we can do it.
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