A Good Day, Profiles in Virtue #1

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I never thought I’d see Dean again, or at least for quite a while.  I’d diagnosed osteosarcoma bone cancer in his beloved bloodhound’s leg about a month ago, and after we said goodbye to her, he floated off in a sea of tears.  I’m always touched by a man who feels comfortable sharing emotion while dealing with life’s difficult decisions.  Dean had carried some of his own medical issues, and had lost an eye on that journey.  So I was so very happy to see his face when I entered the exam room last Tuesday, embracing a new dog.  He shared his story.

“Doc, you know I was pretty tore up about ol’ Dolly.  I swore I could never get another dog again.  It just hurts so  much when you have to say goodbye.”

I nodded because I know that feeling well.  Clearly I didn’t need to share my wisdom about love and loss.

“Dolly had been such a good friend to me, through such tough times, the surgery and everything.  She just seemed to know when I needed someone to hug.”

“The good years we shared, and the unconditional love she showed me, that was so much bigger than my pain when I had to put her down.”

“I woke up one morning with a big ol’ smile on my face, and I went down to the shelter.  I told them I wanted to adopt an old dog, one that was sweet, but would probably never get adopted, because they weren’t cute.”

“When she saw me, she ran over to the front of the cage, jumped up and down, turned around and around, and whined and barked, like the army guy returning home from deployment, and his dog sees him and does all this; it was like it was Dolly, so glad to see me again.”

“The family who walked into the shelter when I did, saw all the commotion,  and changed their mind.  They didn’t want a puppy anymore.  They asked to see an older dog too”

My “brother” Dean had adopted this dog on what was to be her last day.  She was to be euthanized at 5:00.  This dog appeared to be “nothing special.”  She was 8 years old, Dolly’s age, and just a plain, regular, old dog.  She was not a cute puppy.  This dog would never have been adopted.

Indeed, she had been saved.  Likely a mutual arrangement.

I could see my technician looking at me, knowing how I loved stories like this.  I realized that I hadn’t said anything in minutes, and was smiling from ear to ear.  I reached out my hand.  “Dean, you’re my hero today.  Thanks for ending my day like this.  Thanks for being you.”  I left the room doing the Snoopy “happy dance.”

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People don’t suck.  I am truly humbled by people on days like these.  People are awesome, and this is just another example of why we were put here.

So what makes a good day anyway?  The bank teller or bagger at the grocery story says, “Have a good day.”

What, exactly, does that mean?

I’ve always told my children that a day is completely wasted if we haven’t learned something, positively influenced someone, or been positively influenced by someone.  These things truly change the world.

Think of this.  Such a simple action.  Such an act of love.  We have no idea how many people we touch every day.  Clearly, this dog’s life was impacted, but what about us?  What about the family next to Dean who decided to get a different, likely un-adoptable, older dog.  What about the shelter girl, who cried as she wrote up the paperwork?  How did she know this dog likes to chase tennis balls? IMG_8563[1]

What about my employees, and the ten other clients in my waiting room.  What about those reading this blog post?  When we think no one else is looking, the entire world probably is.

What about the man looking at Dean in the mirror at the end of the day?  What about someone else, looking down and smiling.  Our actions always matter.

Yes, this was a good day.

Much Love.

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Scott Burrows Paralyzed Kickboxer Walks at FVMA

Scott Burrows on dogtorbill.wordpress.com

Scott Burrows on dogtorbill.wordpress.com

What if the measure of your success is determined by how you react and change from catastrophe in your life? What belief system must you possess to conquer those challenges? Only rare events force people to change. Even more rare are those individuals who can inspire people to the core and move them to action.

The Florida Department of Professional Regulation mandates that veterinarians participate in 30 hours of continuing education every two years in order to maintain an active license.  This is a good thing.  But honestly, sitting in a lecture hall with hundreds of other veterinarians hasn’t been at the top of my bucket-list these last two years.  Frankly, I’ve been working on me.

But May 30 is the deadline, and I do love what I do, so I “enthusiastically” attended the 85th Annual Florida Veterinary Medical Association Convention this last weekend, just a month before the deadline for my remaining required CE hours.  If the likes of:  Immune-mediated Thrombocytopenia: Pathophysiology & Diagnosis, Icteric Cats – More Than Just Hepatic Lipidosis, Cyclosporine/Apoquel Versus Glucocorticoids, and Resection and Reconstruction Techniques for Soft Tissue Sarcoma in Dogs sound like three riveting days, you would have been captivated.  And, believe it or not, I thoroughly enjoyed all of these.  But, me being me, what made me want to get up at 5:30 to drive two hours was a keynote speaker named Scott Burrows.

Scott played college football at Florida State University under legendary coach Bobby Bowden and was a top-ranked kick boxing champion, having his Last fight broadcast by ESPN. Later that year, his life took a dramatic turn when the car he was a passenger in lost control in a serious accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down and diagnosed a quadriplegic.

After years of frustrating and painful therapy, and a phenomenal will to succeed, Scott is now a best-selling author and in-demand speaker.  He employed his paralysis as a visual metaphor, as he rolls himself out on stage in a wheelchair, obviously able to pretty effectively use his upper body now.  With dramatic  arm gestures, he explained how he personally utilized his three principles: Vision, Mindset, and Grit, that are now the focus of his motivational/inspirational addresses.  He encouraged us to “stand up” when we are “paralyzed” by life’s challenges—regardless of circumstances—and achieve our best.

Clearly aimed at a secular audience, Scott used a Tony Robbins” style “You can do it,” positive motivation that we can accomplish anything we set our minds on.

Scott Burrows 2 on dogtorbill.wordpress.com

Scott Burrows 2 on dogtorbill.wordpress.com

Scott has keynote addressed hundreds of multinational corporations all over the world.  That’s how I had heard of him.  In doing so, he is ambiguous as to the source of his immense inner strength.  But I did a bit of digging on his website and some of his other addresses, and discovered his faith in Christ, and the use of his suffering as part of an offering up from which to be lifted out of his tragedy.

So, why not tell the whole story?  Why not “give Him all the glory?”  No doubt a “You can do it yourself style Motivational Speaker,” has an easier time paying the bills and is in less demand at PepsiCo, GE, and Polaris than a Christian inspirational speaker.

Far be it from me to know someone’s heart, but I tend to give folks a pass.  Scott let us fill in the blanks with our own hearts and minds.  If we look inside and don’t really have such a source, it’s likely we’ll dig deeper until we find Him.  I thinks this is an example of “God meets us where we are.”

Scott held a gold club (9 iron?) and raised it, and waved it and twirled it for dramatic effect several times during the talk.  He shared a story of golfing with someone and showed how he swung the club from the chair.

Towards the end of his keynote presentation, to demonstrate that his are not just words, that we really can do whatever we really are determined to do, he scooted himself to the edge of his seat, and with his hands, lifted one foot out of the chair, then the other.  He flipped the golf club around and, pressing it to the ground as support, lifted his body weight and walked across the stage.

Of course, this was met with applause and a standing ovation.  Indeed, with a true faith, we can certainly move mountains.

Much Love.

 

Scott Burrows 3 on dogtorbill.wordpress.comScott Burrows 4 on dogtorbill.wordpress.com

 

 

 

She wasn’t being rude

My receptionist Ericka was in tears. The caller had said some pretty mean things, and she’s sensitive to what people say to her. She thrust the phone towards me, and pleaded for me to deal with it, “She doesn’t understand we don’t have any appointments available and, anyway, we’ll be closed in 45 minutes.” Some lady’s dog hadn’t “eated” in 4 days, and so she thinks she’s really pretty sick, and what was I gonna do about it? On such a hectic afternoon, I was glad to take the load off the front desk, and proceeded with the best defense being a good offense. “So he hasn’t eaten in 4 days? Wow, you rushed right in! What makes you think it’s serious now” The colloquialism of her words and accents made it difficult to understand, even for a small town Missoura hick like myself, but I did make out something about not having much money, something about only having a hunnert dollas. Knowing it sounded like a major medical workup, our lab equipment had an hour back log of tests waiting, and it had been a really long day already, I told her that I could see her at 9:15 the next day. My technician Jenny cringed, knowing full well that I had no openings, even for something minor, at 9:15 tomorrow, or anytime, all day. She also thought the front staff might not be very happy when I had allowed someone so rude and disrespectful, accusing them of not caring, to come in when they had been telling good, regular, polite clients that we were booked until next week. I had a funny feeling about this one. I knew this woman’s dog was pretty sick, and a “hunnert dollas” wouldn’t even get her in the front door of the emergency clinic tonight. I hoped it would wait. And that it wasn’t too serious to throw my schedule into seizures tomorrow.

Frankly, I forgot about her until the next morning, when I walked into the exam room. My flippant attitude about her apparent lack of concern for “Baby Girl” quickly dissipated. The “homeless person” stench was overpowering and was immediately telling as to why the visit had been postponed. This poor 12 year old dog couldn’t even lift her head. Indeed, she had not eaten in 5 days now, but was drinking lots of water. “She’s not spayed,” Jenny whispered to me, in case I missed the obvious. We both knew what it was from the history. A pyometra is an infected uterus, life threatening, and one of the important reasons why a female dog or cat should be spayed if she won’t be used for breeding. I’ll spare you the details, but it is typically fatal before five days, from internal rupture, much like a child’s appendix can rupture, spreading bacterial poison and toxins throughout the body.

The pre-surgical workup of confirmatory lab tests and X-Rays alone is about $300, and if it was a pyometra, could easily exceed $1200-1500. And the patient could die, regardless of our best efforts, especially if the uterus had already ruptured. She hadn’t come in because she had been scraping together, begging, and borrowing to get some money together to get her dog fixed.

Nor could I promise her that her little dog would live through the surgery. “So what are you telling me?” the woman shouted at me, with tears in her eyes. Deep down, I knew she had been rejected before, a lifetime of it. I knew she expected me to say to go away, that if she had no money she wasn’t welcome here.

I told her I wanted to run some tests, and that it would cost her “a hunnert dollas.” That wouldn’t fix anything, but we needed to know what was wrong.

Jenny was correct. The test confirmed a high white blood cell count (indicating infection), and the radiographs (X-Rays) confirmed a huge swelling in the area where the uterus would be.

As I delivered the news and the grave prognosis, her eyes reddened and became teary.

Having pets is a commitment. And an obligation. And owning pets is a choice that involves responsibilities and expenses. Therefore, keeping a pet is not a right, nor is it the grocery store’s obligation to feed the dog for free, nor the veterinarian’s obligation to care for it for free. Pets, like people, should have a basic minimum of care: annual examinations, inoculations, and other preventative health care, and the planning for the possibility/likelihood that something may go wrong – an accident or an illness.

So, are people living in poverty allowed to have pets? If she can share what she finds in the dumpster with her only friend in the world, or if she and her cat split a can of food, is that “good enough?”

As I spoke with my staff, receptionists, as well as technicians, I told them that this woman was not rude. The astonished looks of disagreement on their faces faded as I explained. “You can’t be rude if you don’t know what rude is. She doesn’t fit our picture of how we should behave or talk, but she’s not intending to be disrespectful or unappreciative. She just doesn’t know any better. She’s never had anyone give her the benefit of the doubt. How many times had she been excluded as a child, or looked down upon as an adult? How do you expect her to behave?”

I’ve mentioned in previous posts how high a value I place on the “human-animal bond.” That unconditional love thing is impossible to put a price tag on. Of course this dog is suffering now, but what about the past decade of loving relationship? Do you honestly think this dog’s life didn’t live a happier, worthier life for having met this woman instead of starvation on the street, or the animal shelter’s needle? As Pope Francis said in different circumstances, “Who am I to judge?”

“I can only promise you two things,” I told her solemnly. “I’ll do my very best to save your dog, and she most definitely will die without the surgery.” I was emphatic, because she needed to really understand how sick her little friend was. “Baby Girl” couldn’t lift her head, but her eyes followed my every move and she wagged her tail when I scratched behind her ears.

I told her that we had all discussed it and that we were willing to do surgery during our lunch break, and that it would only cost her the “hunnert dollas.” I’ve learned over the years that even if you work pro-bono that the client must contribute something, to take ownership, and to feel the value – something about pride, that they had contributed also.

I don’t take any credit. And I honestly do not write this story to look like some kind of a hero. My staff clocked out over the lunch hour and also donated their time. We’re all confronted with choices in life where we can make others’ journey’s better, or at least less miserable. I know pain, and anguish. We all do. We have a choice to be angry at God or whomever for allowing/causing crap to happen, or we can rise up from the ashes and be better for our losses. Is it to better to be bitter and angry, or realize what suffering feels like, and gain empathy?

“Really? No one’s ever done anything nice for me before,” this smelly woman wailed and wanted to hug me, so I embraced the leper. If you’re skeptical, of course this may seem disingenuous, and I do get it, I’m from Missouri (this is the origin of “show-me”). We are constantly barraged with cardboard signs on the off-ramps. Are any of them really willing to work for food? At the end of the day, does it make any difference? “I was hungry and you gave me to eat.”

It’s easy to puff your chest out when you do something difficult. But this wasn’t difficult. If I’m not there that day to fix the torn ACL knee ligament, the liver shunt, the heart defect, the broken hip … someone else would have. I’m truly not particularly intelligent or even very talented. But I sleep well tonight, knowing that no-one would have done this simple surgery for this indigent woman. This was truly no big deal, a very simple surgery that took just a few minutes. But after so many years, these opportunities to make a difference, make it all worth while.

I usually ask for comments, but not on this one. Please don’t leave any comments. Like it if you want, and share it. If you like this story, pay it forward. You think your life sucks? Look around. Make a difference. This isn’t even a story worth telling if you don’t use it yourself and think about it tomorrow as you look around. This story would have remained untold if I hadn’t had a couple of beers and like to write. Your life is charmed and blessed BECAUSE you are reading this, are capable of thinking about the big picture, and can make a difference. It’s not the big things we do that are heroic.

At the end of the day, this woman ran in, frantic about her dog. She didn’t have a phone so had no idea if her dog made it through surgery. Certainly, she thought the worst when she was escorted into the room, and told the doctor would be with her shortly … she stomped and shouted and cried for some answer, “How is my dog?!! PLEASE dear God, please somebody just tell me, did ‘Baby Girl’ die?!!” I ran from the appointment I was with when I heard the commotion, but Jenny beat me there. All I heard was, “She’s alive?!!! She’s alive?!! Oh dear God, praise dear God! My Baby Girl’s ALIVE!!!”

I’m sure they heard the shouting and crying next door.

Pay it forward. Much Love.

Please Continue with PART TWO

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SuperSavior Vet

ImageEverything about euthanizing a pet brings me down, and wears on my morale.  I’ve practiced veterinary medicine for 28 years, and you’d think it would be no big deal, but it always is.  I felt called to help animals when I was about 8 years old, and never really seriously considered anything else.  I have devoted my life to doing this the best I was able, and I take my Hippocratic oath seriously.  Advising on end of life decisions is a rather large part of my day.  And when it comes to giving the injections, I don’t do so lightly.  Down deep I really wonder whether or not I really have the right to snuff out life.  Poof.  Just like that.  One minute the little guy is looking at me, sometimes suffering pitifully, sometimes seemingly not in discomfort, wagging his tail.  The next moment, limp and without the spirit of life.  Especially after my own recent losses, I value life perhaps more than most.

Pets are not just “important” to my clients and their families, they often ARE the only family some folks have.  I think it’s hard for some to understand how deeply attached pet owners are to their beloved dogs and cats.  If you’ve never had one, or keep yours in the backyard, you may not understand.  But the vast majority of Americans consider their dogs and cats members of the family.  Certainly this goes a long way to explain why behavior problems and obesity are issues I deal with in the exam room every single day.  We overindulge ourselves, and our children, so why not our dogs and cats?

More often than not I’ve seen an older client quickly fade and die when they lose their pets.  A dog is sometimes the only reason our seniors even get out of bed.  They provide an incentive to get dressed, and get some exercise on that morning walk.  Often a spouse has passed away, as well as friends, and children are distant.  Seeing a bright eyed dog jumping around ecstatically, like you are the most important person in the world, makes life worth living.  That wagging tail, expressing the epitome of unconditional love and acceptance is indescribable.

Likewise, the meow, meow, meow, meow of a kitty means you are the only one that can satisfy.  You are the provider, the bread winner, the hero of their lives.  You keep them comfortable and fed, and protect them from that awful brute that barks and slides around the floor and in general behaves like a complete idiot.  You have the most comfortable lap and know just where to rub under the chin and behind the ears.  The incessant purring and “making bread,” the kneading of the alternating front feet on your arm or in your face screams, “WAKE UP and feed me!”

Although I hate it more than I can completely put into words, there is something about the pain of loss that is so loving.  The circle of life is played out in front of our eyes; the dynamics of living and the struggles surrounding death.

I remember back in school some of my classmates said they chose veterinary medicine over medical school because they preferred animals to people, one in fact “hated people.”  That made me raise my eyebrows in wonder.  (In fact, I spoke to the one who “hated” people at our 20 year reunion, and discovered that he was now in research.  Those he hated so much must have reciprocated, and so couldn’t keep a practice going.)  Which reminds me, I had also gotten that acceptance into medical school letter, and a rejection for vet school.  About a month later, I learned that I had been placed on a “waiting list,” when I got the letter – I was next in line to be called for the freshman class when someone discovered she was pregnant. Funny how the turns life takes so change our journeys.

Anyway, I love veterinary medicine because of the people, not in spite of them.  It’s an honor and a blessing to have a families trust when they bring in that new puppy and kitten.  I smile down at the children who come in to watch me examine and inoculate their new best friend.  I know they’ll sleep together, and sob over a boyfriend breakup and not making the basketball team.  They’ll knock over the birthday cake at the sweet sixteen party, and chew up the $200 baseball bat (as well as mommy’s Coach purse and pee on dad’s shoes).  They’ll look up and love unconditionally when a child is teased at school or isn’t asked to the dance.  With such sad eyes, she’ll sit by the bedroom door everyday until they come home from college or on military leave, and run in circles uncontrollably, jumping up and down and howl with screams of delight at the homecoming.

She’ll benefit from prayers when I need to do an emergency surgery to stop the relentless vomiting, and tears of relief when I call with the news that I had removed the obstruction caused by the rawhide or acorn that they ate, or that the tumor was successfully removed, and everything’s going to be “just fine.”

And she’ll just sit by your side as you weep over the cancer, the job loss, the divorce, and the death that are all part of your family.  Somehow she understands that you just need someone to sit with you.  And hug.  She does too.

And when the time comes when the heart or kidneys fail, her own cancer wins, or the arthritis is just too bad to even stand, she’ll trust you to make that loving decision. Your unthinkable anguish can not be described here.  She has helped you raise your family, been there through it all, and now all you can feel is raw emotion.  We’ll cry together, pray if you wish, say goodbye and hug.

So imagine my surprise, when I’m asked to do the unthinkable.

Everyone in my office knows my feelings regarding euthanasia.  We certainly assume the one presenting the pet is responsible, loving and caring, and has suffered to make that final decision.  So its clearly not my intent to make it any more difficult on such a horrible day.  But I do take my mission seriously, and as such, if I don’t have an existing relationship with the client and understand the condition of their pet, I need to do so.  If you have a dog that’s 20 years old, and obviously in sad shape, that’s one thing, but if your dog doesn’t fit into your new apartment size, or cat doesn’t match the new furniture (I kid you not), that’s entirely different.  Some guys don’t care, if you want a perfectly happy, healthy animal euthanized, and are willing to pay for it, no problem.  But I’m not “that guy.”

Some days we’re just plain busy, and everyone does their job so efficiently that corners get cut.  One day last week was that day.  I finished looking at a lab test, and as I raced through the procedures room to get to my next appointment, I noticed my nurses placing an IV catheter into a beautiful boxer’s arm.  Something caught my attention and I stopped in my tracks, and inquired as to what they were doing.  “Exam room 3 is your 4:15 appointment, apparently he has cancer.”  Hmmm, really?

I pulled the chart off the slot outside of room 3, and discovered we had never seen the pet before.  There was a note inserted from the receptionist that although she had requested they bring copies of previous medical record with them, they seemed to bristle when asked if they had brought them, and said they had “forgotten.”  I opened the door, shook the huge client’s hand and asked about ‘Rocky’s’ condition.  “Oh my wife took him to a vet in Titusville, and they said he has cancer.”  I feigned surprise, and said, “Really? Wow, he looks great!  What kind of cancer?  What kind of tests did they perform?”  The guy actually chuckled as he replied that he had no idea, his wife had taken the dog there.  “What was the vet in Titusville’s name?”  He said her name was Dr. Lorraine something.  I replied, “That shouldn’t be too difficult, there can’t be many veterinarians in Titusville named Lorraine, I’ll be right back,” and quickly departed to do some “Googling” to find a vet named Lorraine in Titusville and get a quick copy of her medical workup.  Less than two minutes later, just as I discovered there were no Dr. Lorraines in Titusville, or anywhere in central Florida, my nurse rushed into my office to tell me that the client “doesn’t need you to do that.”

“Doesn’t need me to do what?” I asked.  “Get the medical history.”  This was all becoming a little interesting.  “Well he may not need me to do it, but I, in fact do need to do it.”

As soon as I returned to the room, I was met by an angry man who entered well into my “personal space.”  He asked, “Is there a problem, doctor?” (emphasis because of sarcasm).  “I understand that this is a really hard day for you.  Trust me, I get it.  But I hope you’ll understand my situation.  We are an animal hospital; we work very hard to save lives, and although we do perform euthanasia, we maintain a policy that it needs to be medically justified.”  His body language took an ugly tone, and he actually stepped even closer to me, and raised his voice to an actual shout, “Are you telling me that I’m willing to pay you for a service, and you’re refusing to?”  His wife slipped quietly out the door, clearly demonstrating the submission this man was accustomed to with his show.  Quite certain that a little intimidation and the almighty buck would convince me, I think he was stunned that I actually took another step towards him, looked him directly in the eye, and said with a softer and gentler voice, “Sir, that’s exactly what I’m telling you.  You gotta believe me, I’m not trying to make this difficult for you, but you didn’t bring in any medical records, and my staff looks to me for leadership.  I have to maintain morale around here.  Taking a life is very difficult on us as medical professionals, and so, in order to sleep at night, I need to be able to justify it.”  He was absolutely furious, and I was quite certain that he was going to hit me.  “So what are you, super savior  vet? OOOH, I’m so impressed!”  He shook his hand in exaggerated fashion with pretend fear.  “So now I gotta ‘F’ing do this all over again somewhere else!”  The terrified dog was now cowering in the corner. Had he seen this temper before?   I remained as calm as I could, which just seemed to fuel his rage.  “Sir, I understand you’re upset, and if you can find your previous medical records, or if you’d like me to examine ‘Rocky,’ I’ll certainly do that.  “And you don’t need to use that kind of language.”

But it was much too late for logic.  He ripped the poor, scared dog by the attached leash and stormed out, threw fifty bucks at the receptionist, and shouted, “You can tell Jesus Christ back there, “Thanks for nothing!”

The funny thing is, no one thought it was funny.  This guy was clearly going to have his dog euthanized today.

I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt, especially lately.  Regardless of its happy, healthy appearance, it is quite possible that this poor pet had some serious problem.  Maybe in his sorrow, he simply forgot to bring the records, and was too embarrassed to admit it.  I do feel bad that things went the way they did, but I still don’t think I was out of line for requiring justification for ending a life.

Life is precious.  Please remember to remind everyone that you love, that you do.

Road to Emmaus

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Everyone who knows me, knows that I have a horrible memory.  Not just, “Where did I put my car keys?” or “Crap, I forgot why I came in here” type of bad memory, rather more like, “I could hide my own Easter eggs!”  I could watch the same movie ten times and be shocked each time at the ending!

So, I dread seeing clients in public.  As a veterinarian, I form personal relationships with my clients, and get to know them, their children, and their pets – often a very real part of their family.  People appreciate when you connect with them, and I do genuinely love my job and (most of) my clients and their “families.”  So when I greet them by name and remember their kids, and that their cat purrs on Grandpa’s lap and the dog digs up the daffodils and enjoys leg humping Uncle Donnie, and never left Maggies side when she had cancer surgery, I get to show them that I understand, and that I’m honored to also be included in their family’s story.  But remember, I have “crib notes” or “cheat sheets” called a medical chart.  I’ve not only read “Otis’s medical notes, but also the post-it notes attached that remind me of the personal stuff.  Please know that I am truly interested in you personally and your family, but frankly, I do well to remember my own Kayla’s swim meet this weekend, or that I agreed to pick up printer ink for Noah’s book report on my home tonight.

So that explains the “deer in the headlights” look in my eyes when I see you at the grocery store, as I cheerfully blurt out, “OH Hi!! How ARE you???!!!”  But, I really don’t have a clue who you are.  Now I do know you look familiar, and so you probably are a client, and I very much appreciate that you like me, and I truly do like you also.  Because I like everyone, or most people anyway.  And I really and truly DO wish I could remember stuff like that, because you really ARE important to me – and not just professionally, because you pay the bills.  No, much more so because I believe “we’re all in this together,” and I do enjoy your company and your stories.

But that’s the sort of stuff that settled into my mind as I listened to Luke’s gospel today about the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.  Apparently, these were two guys that were with Jesus daily, were His friends, and actually saw Him perform miracles.  The loved Him dearly as a friend, broke bread with Him, and actually heard Him say the words of everlasting life, that He would be resurrected and come back.  And yet these two disciples, who knew Him so well, didn’t know Him after all.  They didn’t recognize Him at all as they walked down the road for miles.  Only that night, when they again broke bread together did the light bulb go on.

Which is a pretty transparent segway to my own road.  Where is Emmaus anyway?  I guess none of us know exactly where this road will end, but I truly have learned that we encounter our Lord multiple times on this journey.

An therein lies my real dread.  When I don’t recognize Christ in those I encounter, I’ve lost that opportunity forever to impact that person’s life.  How many times have I walked on past my Lord, too busy to care, too focused on myself and my family, too forgetful to remember that I really do know this stranger.

As I begin my Camino de Santiago in 14 days, I’ll try to remember that those I’ll encounter are already friends.  And when I return, I can only hope that I will have learned some valuable lessons.  But most importantly, I desire a better ability to remember the one I’m actually looking for.

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