It’s not what I have…but what I do with it

September 13, 2016

I have a confession to make. While I am posting pictures of sunsets and palm trees on my social media accounts, deep down in my heart, I feel a little guilty for being here. I mean, I have to be here. I am presenting our research at this meeting, the most prestigious trauma surgical society in the world. It’s an honor to have the 4′ x 6′ space to display a poster and have 5 minutes of time to discuss our work with the handful of folks who will be kind enough to listen. But this is Hawai’i. Literally, paradise. And while hundreds of us are here with our friends and family, to discuss our work and share our science, if we are honest with each other, we feel a little guilty for “working” in paradise.

So how do we reconcile this? Should I refuse to come to these meetings? Should I boycott the palm trees and swimming pools and ocean views? Should I stay in my office back home and meditate on the indescribable horrors around the world? I don’t really think so. Sitting on our balcony this afternoon, eating our lunch, Scott and I talked about this. How do I make sense of my view of the ocean while there are children dying in Aleppo? And Scott, in his wisdom (which is his baseline…quiet wisdom), says, “I don’t think you have to feel guilty for feeling lucky or blessed. But I do think you have to find a way to pass on the blessing.” It’s the follow up. The conviction to make this experience worth something to someone beyond myself.

We come to these meetings because it is essential to share our knowledge, our experience, our expertise with one another. We must build friendships and networks with our surgical colleagues from across the US and around the world. We are better surgeons because we learn from one another. We are better surgeons because we are friends; we know who we have in our back pocket. I have “phoned a friend” both locally and across the country, at odd hours of the day and night, because I need their trusted opinion for the pickle I find myself in at 2am in a strange case in the OR. We come to these meetings to renew old friendships, to create new ones, to share our experience; to see that we are not alone. To become better. And that’s what we are obligated to share with our patients and friends back home.

And that’s what I am obligated to share in life. God never said, “I’ll make you all equal.” No. He said, “If you are given much, much will be required of you. If much is entrusted to you, much will be expected of you.”–Luke 12:48 (VOICE) The mandate we receive is not to hold ourselves hostage in some sort of quest to prove that we can sacrifice to the extreme or become someone we are not. The directive we have been given is to recognize the bounty that we hold in our hands and our hearts; our richness may be in money, but more often it is in spirit. We are called not to refuse to accept the gift, but to invest it; to use it to share and encourage one another; to live lives of extraordinary graciousness and generosity. God didn’t give me the life of a refugee; He gave me my life. And to refuse to accept the life that God gave me is to say to Him, “Thanks, but I know better. I don’t want the life you gave me. I’ll take this matter into my own hands and refuse your gifts in the name of sacrifice and equality.”  No. He entrusted to me the life that I have. The job that I have. The family that I have. The friends, the colleagues…the life that I have. And He expects much in return. To love, to teach, to share; to name Him as the source of joy and peace in my life. To be generous and gracious.

I don’t think God wants us to feel guilty for the life He has given us…I think He wants us to embrace it. And to dream of ways that we will be honored to share it.

Disclaimer: My viewpoints are not necessarily reflective of my employer, or any local, regional or national organization that I belong to. As a matter of fact, I pretty much just speak for myself. Please keep that in mind.


  1. Reply

    Cristina O'Donoghue

    Thank you for this! My heart is so heavy lately and your reflection is appreciated.

    1. Reply


      I am so thankful to hear that! My prayers for peace and clarity for you now, and always, my friend!

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