Something Good Today

A personal story about making a difference

By Fred Smith

Let me tell you a favorite story:
Several years ago I had a major operation in Mayo Clinic's Methodist hospital in Rochester, Minnesota. My wife said she felt sorry for the doctors and hospital staff because she knew how executive I could be, translated - "how controlling I could be." She knew I'd quiz the doctors about their qualifications, as pleasantly as possible, but as thoroughly as possible. For example, I had found out that the surgeon who was to operate on me had been on vacation, so I asked him to make me his second operation that day; I wanted him to get his hand back in the swing of things before he cut me. He laughed, and actually complied.
Then my wife knew I would put my management eye on the hospital, asking why they did what they did and why they arranged things the way they did, hoping to make some improvement. I was to be in the hospital a week, which would give me lots of supervising time. But something happened that changed all that. As I sat in the waiting room to be admitted, I was paged to the counter and asked to put all my valuables in a safety deposit box for the duration of my stay. As I put my watch, wallet, and other valuables in, it suddenly occurred to me that my ego was the asset I most valued, and I decided I would put it in the box with the other valuables. That meant I had to be totally submissive to the doctors and nurses, and cooperate with anything they asked. I kept my resolve for the entire week and never had a more enjoyable week in my life. I never knew what a relief it could be not to be establishing the pecking order with people, not to be focusing on the differences but the similarities. I found the joy of community rather than the responsibility of leadership.
Many nights I was awake, and the nurses would visit me. Other times I listened to the radio, both classical and jazz. Late one night the program was recordings of Bix Biederbeck, and the disc jockey read off the side men, including Bill Rank on trombone. It brought back a wonderful memory of finding that Bill Rank worked for me on the night shift in the plant after Dixieland jazz had lost its marketability. I remember talking to Bill about his time playing with Bix and encouraged him to get back into music. With the return of the popularity of Dixieland, he did just that. That was a dividend from a deposit into the memory bank.
But back to the point of this story. In the middle of the night, one of the nurses came in and said, "I'm going to ask something of you that I've never asked of another patient in my life." When I nodded agreement, she said, "Down the hall we have a young woman who is dying, without a single flower in her room. You have nineteen arrangements. Could I take one to her? She is a black girl without anyone with her."
I pointed to a beautiful arrangement made up of exotic flowers from Hawaii, sent to me by the Highland Park Presbyterian Church. In the middle was a beautiful bird of paradise. I suggested she take that. About thirty minutes later, the nurse came in choked with emotion and started walking around the room. She walked to the foot of my bed and squeezed my big toe and left the room. She was essentially saying, "Tonight we did something good." I can never forget that feeling. Sometimes when I'm not sleeping at night, I wish the Lord would squeeze my toe and say, "We did something good today." Our heart's desire should be to do something good. Isn't it said about Jesus that He "went about doing good"?