This is a true story, a story of a whole series of CARE packages that powerfully impacted my life. None of them were big things, but they made a huge difference in my memory of what could have been a horribly traumatic experience. Because of the little things a handful of people did, I only have POSITIVE memories.
I grew up in a small town in the Midwest, the oldest of four children. We did not have a lot of money–my father was the Postmaster in our little town. One of the things I remember vividly in my growing up years was hearing my Mother talk about wishing she could go to see a favorite uncle who lived in Wyoming.
My mother and I had birthdays only two weeks apart, and for my fifth birthday, my Dad gave us two train tickets to go to Wyoming while he stayed home with the other children. It was the most exciting moment in my whole life when we got on that train! The very first thing my uncle showed us when we arrived was his brand new Pointer hunting dog. He was thrilled with the dog, it had all kinds of special papers, and he had wonderful plans for hunting and fishing trips with it.
Evidently, the dog didn’t like me very much. We were about the same size, and all of a sudden, this cute little girl began getting all the attention that the dog had been getting just hours before. So, the second day we were there, he lunged at me, bit me in the head, and almost tore my whole scalp off!
They quickly got me to an emergency room, but it was quite a long time ago, and they didn’t have many of the medications they have now. For some reason because the wound was so close to the brain, they felt they could not give me any kind of an anesthetic, so they literally did hundreds of stitches without being able to give me anything for the pain. Unbelievably, I have no memory at all of any pain. All I remember is the doctors and nurses holding me, talking to me, touching me. My whole memory is simply being enveloped by love!
Two days later I began to run a 105 to 106 degree fever. The wound had gotten infected. They rushed my father out and told my parents that I had a 75 to 1 chance to live, and that if I did live, I would never look “normal.” During that time in the hospital in that tiny little town in the mountains of Wyoming, the doctors and nurses somewhere found a 16 millimeter movie projector, the kind that sort of shook as you watched the movies! They brought it into my room, and they brought as many films as they could find–Abbott and Costello, the little Rascals, Casper, the Friendly Ghost. At that time my parents didn’t even own a TV set, so can you imagine the thrill of my having movies in my hospital room? In fact, one of the reasons I think I fought that infection and lived was I DIDN’T WANT TO MISS THOSE MOVIES!
In the end, I did survive the infection, but I was literally a freak–I had huge chunks of scar tissue sticking out all over my head. The following two summers my parents decided to take me to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, to see if they could do plastic surgery to help me.
When we would go to Mayo Clinic, my mother and I would have to be there for 7-8 weeks at a time. In those days they tried to create a “family” experience, so they did not keep children overnight in the hospital unless they absolutely had to. Instead, they assigned each family a driver who would pick the family up at the hotel each morning, drive them to the hospital, and then pick them up at the hospital each evening and drive them back to the hotel.
The driver we were assigned was really just a taxi driver, but he became our friend as he drove us back and forth each day. In his car, he had an ugly little furry thing which hung from his rear view mirror. Every day when he would pick us up, he would say to me, “Barbara, say good morning to Fred. He’s my good luck charm. Nothing bad ever happens to me when Fred is around. I’ve never had an accident because Fred takes such good care of me. He is my best friend in the whole world.” As a result, I thought Fred was pretty special!
On the day of my first surgery (it was elective–they didn’t know for sure if they could help me), the driver picked us up at the hotel, drove us to the hospital, and let my mother and me out of the car. Then he said, “Now wait a minute,” and he walked around to the front, opened the front door, and took Fred off the rear view mirror. He came over to me, got down on his knees so he was eye level with me, and he said, “I know it’s your operation today, and I know you’re kind of scared. But you remember how Fred takes such good care of me and never lets anything bad happen? You take Fred with you, and you’re going to be just fine.” I remember going into the surgery clutching that ugly little furry thing, whatever it was, and knowing I was going to be “just fine!”
The doctor who did my surgery was the best known plastic surgeon in the world at the time. Can you imagine how busy that man was? After the surgery, I would be bandaged from the top of my head to the bottom of my neck for weeks at a time. When I would come in to get my bandages changed, he would never let the nurses do it. He would always bring me into his office, sit me up on the table, and tell me all about his children. As he changed the bandages (they were cloth in those days), he would tear the ends of every one, and then he tied LITTLE BOWS all over my head. My only memory is how pretty I was! People would even stop me on the street and in the hall to tell me how lovely I looked. There was a man who was changing people’s lives very day (they only get the very worst cases at Mayo Clinic), and yet he still had time for a little six year old girl.
So, none of those things were big things, but each small CARE package served to change what could have been a horribly traumatic experience into one that only has POSITIVE memories. I am not afraid of doctors or hospitals, I love dogs, and although I still have scars on my forehead and in my hair, that whole experience is a joyful one in my memory. In fact, today I make my living by standing up in front of hundreds of people in my audiences, never even thinking of the miracle of how I look.
My belief is that we all have this opportunity to give CARE packages every single day. We can never know when the extra kind, caring thing we do for someone might make such a difference in their whole life. I have tried to go back and find these people years later, and of course, they didn’t even remember me. However, that is a true CARE package when we give without asking for anything in return.
When I tell this story to my audiences, I have to tell it in the third person as if it happened to someone else, because whenever I try to tell it as my own story, I cannot get through it without crying. It is simply awesome to me to think of the difference these few people made in my whole life. The beautiful thing is that each one of us can make that same difference for other people as we send our CARE packages every single day.
© Barbara Glanz Communications. All Rights Reserved.
Barbara Glanz Biography
A member of the prestigious Speaker Hall of Fame and one of fewer than 700 Certified Speaking Professionals worldwide, Barbara Glanz, CSP, CPAE, works with organizations to improve morale, retention and service and with people who want to rediscover the joy in their work and in their lives. She is the first speaker on record to have spoken on all 7 continents and in all 50 states. Known as "the business speaker who speaks to your heart as well as to your head," Barbara is the author of twelve books including The Simple Truths of Service Inspired by Johnny the Bagger®, CARE Packages for the Workplace, and 180 Ways to Spread Contagious Enthusiasm™. Voted "best keynote presenter you have heard or used" by Meetings & Conventions Magazine, Barbara uses her Master’s degree in Adult Learning to design programs that cause behavior change. She lives and breathes her personal motto: “Spreading Contagious Enthusiasm™” and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.barbaraglanz.com.