What a difference one smile makes.

I’m in the Gatineau hospital waiting for Anita’s surgery to finish. I don’t like hospitals much. I don’t think most people do.

For me it’s the memory of spending 8 months on C-Block at Fitsimmones General in Denver with 50 other terminal patients. Most were casualties from the Vietnam War, sent to Denver for a last chance look see if anything could be done for them. The memories are still quiet vivid.

What I remember most, was the atmosphere.

I was 11 at the time and classified as terminal. Every man on the floor was. It’s frightening what Man’s weapons of mass destruction can do to a man and still leave enough of him to avoid a toe tag. It was utterly depressing the first few days until I met George.

He had a funny laugh. Worse than mine. And it was contagious.

I don’t remember George’s last name. What I do remember is that he was the ward clown, the main event, and ringmaster all wrapped up into one. And he lived large. From his wheelchair he daily cajoled and entertained everyone on C-Block.

He once confessed to me that knowing he was terminal had given his life new meaning. And that his mission was to make everyone he came in contact with smile.

He said he had a choice to either accept his lot in life and go out depressed and bitter or smile and laugh all the way to Heaven’s Gate. I had the same choice he said. Everyone does. And then of course he demanded that I chose now.

Now obviously, I chose the high road – life. Anyone that knows me knows I see “silver linings on every cloud – pots of gold and Platinum pucks (it’s a Canadian thing).

After 6 months in hospital I finally had the heart surgery that saved my life. I was lucky. My surgery was delayed several times because I was too sick to operate on and each boy who passed in front of me in the que died. My surgery was still novel and had never been performed successfully in North America back in 1971.

While I was waiting for my surgery George taught me how to play poker. How to market myself and make money. (I set up a courier company inside the hospital called “Anything for a Nickel Incorporated” and to run errands for the staff and earn a little spending money.) And how to laugh really big hearty laughs.

George also showed me how to live like everyday mattered and that the mountains in front of me where just speed bumps on the road to success. That I am in charge of Me Inc. and that by changing my outlook I can change my results.

He encouraged (forced is too hard a term – but he did withhold my ice cream at dinner if I failed to summarize that day’s reading.) I was fed a steady diet of Napoleon Hill, Churchill’s memoirs and every reel of The Three Stouges he could find. (George believed in “balance”.)

We ran movie night – every night and dragged everyone who wasn’t hardwired to their oxygen in to the cafeteria to laugh with us. We even “borrowed a copy of Barberela” when it first came out and showed that too. No one called Jane Fonda Hanoi Jane I we were all just smitten.

Sometimes it felt like everyone but our families had just given up on us. But we lived large. We rolled with it everyday and made the most of our opportunities. Knowing we had nothing to lose emboldened us. We really lived!

So why don’t I like hospitals?

Because there seem to be fewer and fewer George’s when I have to visit. Hospitals all seem so staid to me. The staff are too serious. The doctors are sterile, and more apt to speak in terms of the “odds of this or that” – so as to avoid future litigation…. than see the terrified individual in front of them and try to comfort them let alone give them hope.

But this morning was different.

The woman who runs the cash at the coffee shop in the basement of the hospital was full of life and laughter.

From my first interaction she made my spirits soar!

I instantly recognized my responsibility to my happiness and the need to help others around me soar too! Wrapped up in my own little world as I am today, I forgot that attitude is everything AND that attitude is contagious.

So let me stop now and ask you a serious question.

Are there any lessons here for job hunters? I think there are but that’s my nature. Are the people around you helping or hurting you? Do they see a positive outcome for you or do they remind you of how “bad” it is out there? Did they remind you, that “John or Mary” are still looking too OR tell you that 4,000,000 Americans were hired last month AND 2,900,000 jobs were on record as unfilled?

What do you think?  Do you need a George in your life!

I left the hospital in May 1971, 2 months after ground breaking heart surgery saved my life. Two months after surgery the nurse warned my father I wasn’t likely to survive (I actually heard her tell my father to kiss me good bye as they were putting me under. I can still make out the sound of a helicopter touching down on the roof above the operating theater, shepherding the surgeon who would save my life.)

When I was discharged I had $1100 in my pockets. (My mother who had just being discharged from a hospital in Colorado Springs confiscated my “ill gotten gains” and confiscated them (I got it all back a few weeks later.)) That was a lot of money for a kid. Back then my father’s salary as a Navy Lt Commander was $5000.

On the down side I failed grade 5 and was told I would need to repeat it the following year, but I didn’t care. The lessons I learned on C-Block would carry through the rest of my life.

I learned so much on C-Block, not the least of which is that your attitude determines your altitude.

George, well he went on to do great things because he had no legs to slow him down and no ears to hear distracting words.

Life is good. Anita will recover beautifully. Live your best life ever!

– David

Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

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