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Finding Gratitude

I went to a conference last summer and one of the speakers said the opposite of anxiety is gratitude. I am not sure if this is true for everybody, but think it should be true for a Christian. If I believe God will provide for me and I am worried that He is not or will not then this is the opposite of being thankful to Him for what He has already given. I do realize there are many people who suffer from clinical anxiety which might require medical or therapeutic intervention as a supplement to their faith in God. But I am not an anxious person and still find myself spiraling into a series of "what if?" questions more often recently that get my heart racing and make me want to cry.

I know there are many people who have been impacted financially by the Covid-19 pandemic. This hit our family as well because, for about 6 weeks, people stopped going to the doctor even for important preventive care such as vaccines. In addition to financial concerns, I have been frustrated by the lack of protective equipment required to make me feel safe in my job. I do have a new surgical mask that I wear throughout each day, despite the instructions on the box to discard between patients. I have a face shield 3D printed by a friend of one of my partners. I have an N-95 mask that I wear for patients who are showing respiratory symptoms. We are 4 months into this pandemic and I am using my 2nd N-95. This feels mostly ok to me because the number of Covid cases in my community is very small and we haven’t yet had a positive test from our department. But numbers in Oregon are going up so I think it is only a matter of time before I worry that this PPE is not enough.

A week or two ago, we were told that, clinic-wide, we are almost out of the foaming sanitizer that we use to go in and out of patient rooms. We do have spray sanitizer and gel sanitizer but if we leave these in rooms, not connected to the wall, they tend to disappear between patients. When the sanitizer runs out, we will have to go to soap and water. This works well to kill covid but takes 20 seconds each time, plus the time for drying and throwing away the towel. If you calculate this by the number of times I have to wash my hands every day, I will then spend 20 minutes a day, a full patient appointment, washing my hands. This stuff frustrates me.

But then I read an article in National Geographic that reminded me to be thankful. Yes, all doctors all over the world should have masks and hand sanitizer and eye protection. But so should all people have access to clean water and masks. This article points out that 40% of the world’s population does not have the ability to wash hands at home. 40%. That fact is not surprising to me, as I have traveled to places with community wells, but it was still shocking when I process it in light of this pandemic. How are we supposed to fight covid worldwide when people can’t wash their hands? And if you live someplace where 5 families, or 5000, depending, share a common water source, you might not have access to a face mask. While waiting in line to get your daily water, you are interacting with and breathing on people who likewise can’t easily wash hands or cover faces.

This article increased my gratefulness. If we run out of hand sanitizer I will wash my hands between patients and think of all the people who can’t. Every wash will be a moment of thankfulness and prayer for those who have less than I do. Every time I go to the store and wear a cloth mask made me for with love from my mother, I will be thankful. My face will feel hot and sweaty, my smile hidden, my words to the cashier muffled. None of this will stop my appreciation for the steps making that moment possible: a healthy mother who can make things for me; access to cloth, elastic, and a wire nose piece; hand sanitizer and a container to hold it in for use before and after entering the store; a STORE!!! where I can walk in and buy food like magic; and the list goes on and on.

There are many things to be anxious about right now. Not knowing what is to come and having very little control over the future is overwhelming and frustrating. Despite this, or perhaps because of this, I am forced to see all of the provision in my life. Starting with washing my hands, I am going to be thankful.

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