The gift of hope

Dec. 1, 2001
As the holidays approach, I ask you to give a gift to every patient that visits your practice.

by Doug Young, MBA

As the holidays approach, I ask you to give a gift to every patient that visits your practice. The gift I am thinking about doesn't come in a box wrapped in brightly colored paper. It has no ribbons tied to it, and you won't find it decorated with a beautiful bow.

I have a very different gift in mind. It is the gift of hope. Never in my memory has such a gift been so important!

Our strength, courage, and character are all being tested. Tests don't come when all is well, when we are calmly walking down a path of happiness, fulfillment, and progress. They come during times of difficulty and crisis. For the entire democracy-loving world, such a test began on September 11.

My normal morning routine of eating breakfast and reading the newspaper was abruptly interrupted when my son, Stephen, called from his office in Canada to tell me that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center. As events unfolded, my initial reaction was shock and disbelief, followed by sadness, anger, and fear to a depth that was overwhelming.

The next few days provided the greatest test of my life. I did not lose any friends, family, or colleagues in the terrorist attacks, but I did fear the loss of something I valued highly. I feared the loss of my way of life, even if I did, at times, take it for granted. For a few days, I even lost the freedom to get on an airplane whenever I chose and fly to a place of work or see my grandchildren. And I began to wonder what other freedoms might be taken from me.

Slowly, I began to take control of my emotions. Many people and events helped, but one step in particular put the terrorist attacks in perspective. That step came when I once again reviewed the writings of Victor E. Frankl.

Dr. Frankl was a Viennese psychiatrist who endured years of unspeakable horror in the Nazi death camp, Auschwitz. Upon his liberation in 1945, he wrote about his experiences, which led to publication of his remarkable book, Man's Search For Meaning. Frankl had inspired me during other times of personal challenge. I knew that I needed his wisdom once again. I found it in these words:

"We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread," Frankl wrote "They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

Frank's words reminded me that my attitude is not dictated by others. It is a personal choice and a personal responsibility. No matter what had happened on September 11, I could choose my own way. I could take control and protect that last human freedom, my own attitude. That was when my healing began.

I do not know your story, but I do know that everyone working in a dental practice now has a privileged opportunity to impact the healing of the public at large. Every day, thousands of people have dental appointments. Many of these people are still struggling with their emotions as a result of what happened. They are searching for something to make them feel better, to energize them, to help them "move on" with their lives. They need the same gift that Victor Frankl gave to me — the gift of hope.

Hope that the way of life we have come to cherish will be restored and never again will be taken for granted. Hope that we will find a way to lasting peace. Hope that those who have never known freedom will now have that opportunity. Hope that each of us can clarify those things that are truly important in our lives, and then commit to honoring whatever they might be.

Everyone in a dental practice has the power to give this gift of hope. You are healers as you guide your patients toward better health. But I am asking you to be a different kind of healer. I am asking you to be a healer of the spirit. You can make a difference to the spirit of your patients, the country, and the world as we move through this period of challenge and recovery.

The people who are helping me the most these days are positive and uplifting. They remain excited about life. They cherish the opportunities it provides. Of course, they realize that things are not ideal and that we face many daunting challenges. They know that many changes to our society are needed, and they are committed to contributing to change. Their focus is on building a better world for themselves and others. They are the givers of hope, and I value them highly.

Because of September 11, your patients now need more than a routine dental experience. They need to feel a positive spirit in every corner of your practice. They need to be served by a dental team characterized by harmony and unity. They need to be helped by dental professionals who deeply believe in their profession and value their work. They need to be with people who have an optimistic view of the future. Do these characteristics describe you and your practice? Can you give the gift of hope?

Imagine what could happen! Your patients come from all walks of life. When they leave your practice with this precious gift, they will share it with others — their families, their co-workers, even strangers with whom they come in contact. This positive spirit will spread throughout your community and beyond. It will overcome the fear and the doubt and the sadness that we all have felt.

We will never be the same as we were before September 11. Although we will be different, there is the potential for the differences to be positive. Victor Frankl has taught us well. With the right attitude, we will prevail.

We will pass this test. With the right spirit, we will do whatever must be done to defeat terrorism and then to build a better world. It will take a collective effort, and everyone in dentistry can contribute by giving the gift of hope. Please start with the next patient you see.

Doug Young, MBA, has a professional speaking, coaching, and consulting business in Parker, Colo., with his wife, Marlyn. His clients in dentistry and the corporate world extend throughout the USA, Canada, Australia, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. His themes include personal and professional development, leadership and team-building, communication, and creating memorable patient experiences. He can be reached by phone at (877) 369-6864, by fax- at (303) 841-2301, and by email at [email protected]; or visit the Web site at

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