As we stepped off the plane back into Emerald City I gave a sigh of relief. While the Mayo Clinic should be a place for me that triggers anxiety it is actually a place where I feel very calm. Being merely a short walk across the street from my surgical team makes me feel safe and every person that I have met there has been kind. It is a community with an ultimate purpose: the well-being of others. And it permeates every aspect of the environment.
I was chatting with a cab driver once on the drive from the airport to the Clinic and found out he was from Charleston (one of my favorite places) and asked how on earth he could have ended up here. His wife was a nurse and wanted to work here so they decided to swap the sand for the snow. I gasped and told him they were crazy to give up Folly beach for the Mall of America. He smiled at me the way people who know something you don’t know smile and said, “Actually, we have been the happiest here we have ever been. My wife loves her job, and driving for me has taken on a whole new meaning. I don’t just take people from point A to point B anymore. I help them. I show the mother who has just found out that her son is very sick and that they won’t be going home tomorrow where the Wal-Mart is so she can buy extra supplies for the indefinite stay, I take the couple who has been through hell and back to the movies for a few stolen hours away from the hospital, and I take the family who has just found out that their daughter’s cancer is in remission out to a restaurant to celebrate. I help them…and it makes me feel really good.”
Listening to this man talk about how a place could bring such purpose to something as simple as a car ride made me reflect. I had recently read Colin Powell’s book, It Worked for Me, where he outlines his “13 rules” to live by. Number 13 states that “optimism is a force multiplier.” I believe that this is the case with the community of men and women who work and live in Rochester, MN. The purpose and positivity with which they go about their lives saturates their being. It is projected outward and affects the other people around them causing that positive energy to exponentially grow.
I remember the morning of my first surgery we were all petrified and had no idea where we were going or what we were doing. A man who works at our hotel as a concierge picked up on the fact that we looked a little skittish and approached us with a warm smile. He lead the way across the street to Rochester Methodist and navigated the labyrinth of hallways to the check-in desk. Along the way he pointed out art and sculpture that was his favorite and explained different historical and little known facts about the Mayo Clinic. He was a great story teller and had a very distinctive and soothing voice. I remember thinking he should be on the radio. Not the morning shows but one of those “after dark” radio shows like the one Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks both listen to in Sleepless in Seattle. He didn’t have to, but this man “held our hand” as we climbed the ladder and walked us to the edge to jump off the high dive. His kindness and happy mood helped us all relax a little and made the beginning of that day a little easier.
I don’t want to sugar coat or idolize this place. It is not all rainbows and unicorns. If you are a patient there you are probably going through a very difficult struggle and very real pain. But the vital difference is if you are in need of a little positivity you can probably find it in the steady hand of the man driving your cab or in the voice of the guy helping you with your bags at check-in.
…And for those of us who may be at the end of our rope and losing our grip, this can be that extra “something” that gives us the strength to “tie a knot at the bottom and hang on for dear life.”