Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.” That you choose to focus on maintaining a positive attitude Regardless of what life throws at you.
If the essence of my being Has caused a smile to have appeared upon your face Or a touch of joy within your heart, Then in living I have made my mark
-thomas odem jr
My grandmother was the oldest of 8 sisters and 1 brother, each of them magnificently different and beautiful in their own way. As a family they went through so much emotional pain and heartache that listening to their individual stories left one stunned, let alone allowing yourself to feel the magnitude of having experienced an endless bombardment of insane and unjust life events – events that would leave your average human crippled and barely able to function.
I have clear visions of my childhood, my grandmother and great aunts, all in their late twenties and early thirties, heavily draped in black, mourning yet another loss, the pain lining their faces beyond their years, their hair greyed well before its natural calling. But what I remember most vividly is their strong sense of faith in God and in life, regardless of what went down. They emitted a sense of peace and acceptance, a sense of reverence and gratitude for the little that they had been blessed with; for each other, and the bond that held them together despite the incessant onslaught of misfortunes. Yet, they maintained a sense of humour and a gentleness that cocooned us children from what could have been life-changing experiences, and allowed us to be children: care-free and happy.
Not surprisingly, one at a time, they were diagnosed with cancer and so each faced, (never alone, always united), the challenge of aggressive radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Each time they remained grounded in faith and hope and trust in God, taking each day as it came and believing that tomorrow the sun would shine brighter.
My heart and soul have been touched by each and every one of these great women, who have left a legacy of characteristics to be admired and modelled. They have taught me to be positive and to always look for the upside, to be grateful for that which I have and to downplay that which I am lacking. They taught me to smile, even when my heart is broken, because I am still so much better off than most.
It is to them that I owe my nature to search for rays of light amongst the shadows and the way I chose to live my life and how I interact with those around me on a personal, casual or business perspective.
I have spent most of my early years as a dentist wishing I had a job that made a difference in the life of others. I often found myself frustrated because I wanted to contribute more to society and to the world at large. I felt I had made a grave mistake in not choosing a career that spent all my working hours serving my fellow humans. I found myself continuously searching for causes to volunteer my time to, anything to make a positive difference in someone else’s life.
Then one day I read an ancient Chinese proverb: “a little bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives you roses”.
I realised that if I undertook everything in my life with the same attitude whether it be volunteer work, dentistry or my relationships, with an attitude of enthusiasm, an attitude of excellence, a smile, I would not only enrich my life but I would touch the lives of others too. I did not need to perform some heroic act or do something out of the ordinary to make a difference; I just had to be who I was meant to be.
I realised that I had, in fact, a unique opportunity to make a difference in a field that had much opportunity for improvement. Where better to change the experience of another than in the dreaded dentist’s room? Most of us having had the negative histories of our childhood could only benefit by a positive experience in the dental surgery.
Being a child specialist, although challenging at times, is always an incredible enriching experience for me. Children have so much to teach us about life. They are so much wiser that we give them credit for. They serve as constant reminders that we shouldn’t take ourselves and life so seriously. They remind us to laugh and enjoy the moment at hand. They teach me that whatever the task, it can be tackled with joy and enthusiasm, making it not a drudge but an experience, an opportunity to learn and have fun. Have you noticed how children are always just inherently happy? How they smile and giggle at everything and anything? How being around them makes you want to be silly and giggly and happy too. Set your inner child free to feel joy and happiness every moment of every day – learn to laugh at yourself and at life.