“How are things with you?” We have asked and been asked that question many, many times without really thinking about the question. Our response is generally: “Fine. How about with you?” Neither person in the conversation really cares about the answer. It is just a polite way to start a conversation. If you really want to startle someone, answer the question with “You really don’t want to know do you?” or start talking about your upset stomach, rambunctious children, worn out car, overdrawn bank account … you get the idea. That generally ends the conversation or certainly results in a quick change of subject. Unfortunately, all of us have problems in our lives and face adversity of some type almost constantly. Some of the problems may only be an inconvenience, but others may be life-changing. A sick family member, loss of a job, and financial problems are just a few adversities that can weigh heavily on a person or family.
We, as health care providers, face adversity every day of our professional lives. The stress of dealing with critically ill patients or patients who are not responding well to treatment, scheduling the necessary evaluations and treatments for patients, or dealing with patients’ families can result in feelings of panic, despair, and depression. If you look at adversity from another point of view, you may find that it provides an amazing opportunity to help people or to show the talents and abilities that you otherwise would not have shown. I know that sounds crazy, but think about it. I know you have heard the old adage, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” — there is a lot of truth in that statement.
I once heard a story of a young lady who was having problems at school with grades, whose boyfriend dumped her, and whose supposed friends were turning against her. She was crying to her mother that the entire world was against her, nobody liked her — you know the story. Her mother did not respond as she thought she would. The mother told the girl to get 3 pots of water. She then was told to put a potato in the first, an egg in the second, and a tea bag in the third and turn on the heat. After each boiled for a while, she was told to turn off the heat and allow the water to cool. The mother carefully examined the results of the “adverse environment” on each. The potato had become soft and fell apart. The egg had become hard. The tea, on the other hand, responded to the boiling water by diffusing throughout the water, turning it into a refreshing drink. The mother then asked her daughter which way she wanted to respond to her adversity. Did she want to fall apart like the potato? Did she want to become hardened like the egg? Did she want to use her adversity to positively impact everyone around her?
There will be times in this life when you will find yourself in hot water, and there will seem to be no way out. Be like the tea bag and allow your adversity to change you so that you can refresh other people in their times of adversity.
“Adversity is the diamond dust Heaven polishes its jewels with.” – Robert Leighton