Dispensing Kindness


Aiden sat down with quiet confidence. He pushed his brown, curly hair over to one side and explained that he hadn’t had time to get it cut. His backpack full of books and papers landed with a thud beside him. He admitted that he had been blessed with a number of great teachers, but Mrs. Miller was the one who had the most impact on his life.

I took a leadership class with Mrs. Miller my senior year in high school; it seemed like a nice balance to my heavy load of advanced placement classes. I expected to learn about giving speeches and getting people to follow my lead, but that was not Mrs. Miller’s definition of leadership. Instead, she identified leadership as service to others and emphasized the importance of humility. She taught us how to actively listen and seek first to understand someone else’s point of view. Throughout the year, we did service projects for the school and surveyed students to find out what they needed. When students complained about the condition of the restrooms, Mrs. Miller asked me to interview the custodian to understand the constraints and appreciate the situation from his perspective.

Now I am in my last year of medical school, and that dose of humility has served me well. There is no shortage of ego among my colleagues, and many of them forget that their purpose is to serve. I continue to practice active listening with patients. I also keep in mind that I am no better than anyone else on the hospital staff. The truth is, no anatomy or physiology class has had as much impact on me as a physician as that high school leadership class. Because of Mrs. Miller, I approach my work with empathy in addition to expertise.

Aiden’s story made me reflect on the best leaders (and doctors) I know. A servant’s heart, a humble posture and a willingness to listen are characteristics they all share. I wondered how many of them benefited from a Mrs. Miller, dispensing powerful lessons in leadership and life. Teachers like Mrs. Miller give kids like Aiden the chance to find greater purpose in their work. What life lessons did a teacher give you? Share in the comments below.

Wishing you an endless supply of chalk and chances-


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