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IN THE SPIRIT: Learning lessons written on wall of Mayo Clinic

Naomi Dunavan

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Sometimes having to wait is annoying, but it recently paid off in a big way for me. I had time to reflect on someone's words of wisdom which left me clothed in peace and reassurance.

Both of which I needed.

There were other people in front of me so I had to wait my turn at the window where passes are sold to park vehicles in the underground lot in front of Saint Mary's Hospital (part of Mayo Clinic).

As I lingered, I watched people going up and down the long corridor until my eyes spotted a large framed message on the wall behind the woman who would sell me my pass.

I found the words I read to be quite profound. They are as follows:

"You are what people see when they arrive here. You are who they look to when they're frightened and confused. You are the voices they hear as they wait to see the physician, trying to forget their problems. You are what they hear as they go on their way to appointments that could affect their destinies. And you are what they hear as they leave those appointments. You are the comments people hear when you think they can't. Yours is the intelligence and caring that people hope they'll find here.

"If you're rude, so is Mayo Clinic. If you're careless, so is Mayo Clinic and if you are wonderful, so is Mayo Clinic! No visitors, no patients, no physicians, or co-workers can ever know the real you, the you that you know is there, unless you let them see it. All they know is what they see and hear and experience. And so, we have a stake in your attitude and in the collective attitudes of everyone who works here. We are judged by your performance. We are the care you give, the attention you pay and the courtesies you extend. Thank you for all you are doing. -- Author Unknown"

I couldn't just let the message be. When it was my turn at the window I asked about it. "I love it, too," said Mayo employee Cindy Finck who invited me into her cubicle so I could jot down what I had just read.

"It was part of a training program that employees attended in the early 2000s," Cindy said. Sadly, no copies are available and no one thought to document who composed the words.

I walked away thinking this message could and should be modified to fit and be displayed for employees in every work place in America: every restaurant, every car dealership, every home building center, beauty shop, real estate office, bank, gas station. I think there's even a place for it in churches -- a reminder to always be friendly, welcoming and helpful.

From then on, I asked almost everyone I came in contact with -- nurses, lab technicians, the cafeteria cashier, the parking lot attendant, if they had seen this message. Not even one was aware it existed, but let me tell you, every person we encountered, medical and otherwise, lived it to perfection.

We were at Mayo because my husband, Jim, decided to usher in American Heart Month on Feb. 1, by undergoing triple by-pass surgery. This is his second go-around as he had quadruple bypass in 1997. Since then, he's been blessed with 16 stents. Upon examination, three Mayo cardiologists scratched their heads wondering, "How many stents are enough," so another bypass it was.

I'm happy and so grateful to say that the beat goes on. Jim seems to be traveling smoothly on his recovery road.

There surely are a lot of beautiful people in this world -- the three Mayo cardiologists, as well as many devoted nurses on the floors. We just loved Brian, Maria, Anne and Jamison. We and our two sons were totally enthralled by and endeared to ICU nurses Gary and Big Mike. How they ever learned to master all those machines is beyond us. They brought to mind the words above, "If you are wonderful, so is Mayo Clinic."

One day, as I moseyed down a long corridor on the fifth floor, I came to someone's office. No one was inside, and the door was closed, but taped on it was yet another message worth jotting down.

This one included the author -- Mahatma Gandhi -- who lived from 1869 to 1948. Gandhi was a top leader in Indian nationalism in British-ruled India. He led India to independence and inspired the movement for non-violence, civil rights and freedom all across the world.

What I read on that door are five sentences from Gandhi, titled, "The Potency of the Positive." They are:

"Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words."

"Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior."

"Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits."

"Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values."

"Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny."

There definitely is too much negativity in the world today. Keeping our own thoughts, words, behavior, habits and values positive could begin to change that. Too much rudeness and carelessness also abounds.

After bumping into Gandhi's message on that door, I've read more of his wise sayings. Here's another I like:

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."

Seems the people I've met lately also are putting that one into practice.

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