In one short sentence he taught me the power of affirmation. His loaded words still linger in my mind.
It was late afternoon. The wintry sun had long disappeared for its well-earned rest. The lights in my office cast a warm beam on the snowy landscape outside my office where, in better weather, I would watch chipmunks scampering as they pursued their own busy lives. Across the way, through the bony fingers of leafless trees, I saw the lights of the hospital twinkling. The full moon had started her journey across the night sky, peaking over the mountaintops in the distance. I hoped that my patients would rest quietly, soaking in her healing power on this beautiful night.
I often worked late. I cared deeply about my patients, and spent the last hour of each day checking their lab results and progress reports before preparing for those that I would see tomorrow.
Happy that all was good, and ready for the morning, I packed my bags. Grabbing my warm coat from behind the door, I headed for the main lobby, and the short walk to the parking garage. I was excited to get home to my wife and young children. Passing through the door into the cold garage, I saw the kind face of Andreas. He was the nighttime security guard who watched over the main entrance through the dark and lonely nights. Tonight his eyes sparkled.
I stopped to greet him, and to hear the latest news about his youngest grandchild. Gesturing me to wait, he disappeared into the back office, and I could hear him furiously opening the desk drawers. He emerged clutching a well-handled piece of paper. He rushed towards me, thrusting the page into my hands.
In the dim light, I read the short paragraph addressed to him. It came from the head of the hospital. It was simple, direct language, thanking him for his exemplary contribution to the welfare of our community. It praised him for his unselfish dedication to his unseen vigil, appreciating the many long, dark hours that he spent alone keeping our offices and our patients’ records safe.
I looked up at him and he beamed. I confess that it brought a tear to my tired eyes. As I turned to walk to my car, I shook his hand. He held my grip and my gaze for a few seconds, and in his old, gruff voice said: “You know Doc, this letter will feed me for years.”
In our brief exchange, two dedicated, hard-working colleagues, doing their best to make the world a better place had shared a mighty truth. Andreas’ colorful expression had crisply captured for me in a way I will never forget the immense power of affirmation. It remains at the core of all my teaching and coaching. It’s a simple, natural way to unlock the very best in ourselves and each other.