One of my favorite bumper stickers is “Who rescued who?” I have a difficult time believing in pure altruism by the biologic definition that it is done at your own expense, as in my life I always receive as much or more then I give.
The Value of Giving Back
My experience time after time is that I’m always better for attempting to improve the well-being of another. Nine years ago, we hosted our first Pankey Dental Access Days with the guidance of Dr. Keith Phillips, from whom I have learned much about the beauty of giving back.
Keith took a small and mighty crew from North Carolina (with a 10 chair mobile clinic) to Evanston each year. We consistently provided comprehensive care over a two-day period of over $100,000. The tears of a patient who’d been given a flipper where he hadn’t had a tooth in 10 years (so that he could go confidently to an interview) changed me forever.
In 2010, I met an MD who had traveled with Doctors Without Borders to Haiti after the devastating earthquake that killed 230,000 people. He showed me a photograph of a 5-year-old Haitian boy with a big smile on his face and a sticker on his cheek.
At the time, my boys were 7, 5, and under 1. He asked if I knew why the boy had such a big smile on his face. I didn’t and he told me that it was his first sticker. When I brought that story home to my boys, they countered with, “He has other toys though, right?” When I informed them that it was his first anything, I knew I needed to experience Haiti with them.
Last January, I took my 12 year-old son on the trip of a lifetime. Braden and I joined a group of 18 medical professionals to help care for a tent community of Haitians displaced by the earthquake. On his first call back home to his mom, he recounted, “Mom, the kids here are so happy—and they don’t have anything!” My heart warmed and I felt my mission for him was already accomplished.
Our original plan was for him to work at a nearby orphanage and play with the kids, but the distance proved too dangerous for our trip director. Braden stepped up and assisted me amazingly for someone whose only previous work experience in my office was to pick out toys for the treasure chest.
On about the third patient, I asked, “I guess you’re OK with blood, huh?” “No problem, dad!” was his response. There is no way I could have treated the number of patients I did without his help.
There is no doubt in my mind that I would not have been able to experience such a trip without my Pankey experience. Having the financial freedom to give back and an expectation of quid pro quo has allowed me to answer the “Who rescued who?” bumper sticker question with a smile.
How do you give back? Please leave your thoughts in the comments!