3 Things Vulnerability Can Show us About the Power of Giving Thanks

Vulnerability_old man

It's all about perspective. On a June day in 2011 my wife and I found ourselves at University Hospital in Tübingen, Germany at the bedside of our oldest son.  While traveling in the Southern region of the country, Alex fell and suffered a traumatic brain injury. 


As physicians, Mary Carole and I understood the situation was dire — very few patients survive or fully recover from this serious condition.  As a family, we were terrified, worried, and completely vulnerable. Alex's life hung in the balance, far from home in the hands of a team of caregivers in a foreign country.
 

From the bystander who found him, to the ambulance crew who transported him, to the neurosurgeon who operated on him, the care was spectacular. The system worked. He's now a thriving first year medical student, and his recovery will remain one of the greatest gifts our family will ever receive.

As frightening as times like these are in our lives, they teach us the power and promise of gratitude.

Here are three things difficult experiences have taught me:

  • First, it's when we're vulnerable we most fully understand we can't do it alone. We see our connection to others and more fully appreciate their skills, talent, and dedication. (In fact, my son's neurosurgeon, Professor Florian Roser, followed me to Cleveland Clinical Abu Dhabi where he is now Chief of Neurosurgery.) 
  • Second, vulnerable situations teach us to take help, not just give it. That's humbling, and not always easy. 
  • And third, feeling profoundly grateful makes us want to pay it forward. We deepen our resolve to be there for those who need us.

We’re all going to face some tough times.  To the extent they help us better connect to others, learn how to accept help from others, and give us the drive to pay it forward—those times make us stronger and deepen our humanity.