This morning as I drive the boys to school a story comes on the radio about inspiring West Virginians. They are talking about a guy named Brad Smith. He’s from a little town of about 1300 people called Kenova, WV. The same little town that Michael W. Smith is from. The same town that hosts The Pumpkin House. But now Brad Smith is out in Mountain View, California—in the heart of Silicon Valley. Smith is president and CEO of the software giant Intuit. It’s the company that makes Quicken, QuickBooks, and Turbotax (do you use it? we do).
In the interview by Jean Snedegar, Brad Smith lists the lessons he learned from his upbringing in West Virginia. He breaks them down into three categories: integrity, humility and teamwork.
One of his colleagues is quoted as saying, "I think he’s probably one of the best exports that West Virginia has. I tell you that Brad’s moral compass is probably one of the strongest ones in the industry and it’s really refreshing."
I turn up the radio.
I think about this as we move through the morning traffic. I think about the way my job has weighed so heavy lately and I think about the people I serve.
I tell him the same thing I tell most. That this is a new way but still a good way. That living from a wheelchair is not a death sentence. That there is life from this angle and there is good life. And while I am talking, he slowly lifts his eyes to mine and what I see on his face is hope and I can never say these words without getting a little teary-eyed.
We lock eyes and I say this:
We are going to help you. We will help you find that place.
And I mean it with all my heart.
And I know it is true because I trust these people that I work with. I am only a tiny part of this team—an afterthought, really. There are others who do the big things—mobility, transfers, bathing, toileting… all those necessary things.
But if I do not do my job, a valuable piece has gone missing. If I do not do my job—who will? Who will say the things that get fear-trapped in throats and pushed back in the heat of pain? Who will ask the questions that nudge past the hard places and open doors to embracing the new?
It’s tempting to think that what I do doesn’t matter—it’s hard to measure a change of heart, hard to scoop up optimism in the hands—but this is how to be a good team member:
I do my job the best I can.
And I trust that the others will do the same.
And on those days when I am tempted to remain mired in my own life? When I want to shut the office door and retreat into my own little world? When stepping out into the hallway feels like the hardest thing to do…when my own struggles weigh me down and numb me to the pain of others?
This is when I need most to remember that I am part of a team. Not just the team of therapists at this hospital where I work—but the team of humanity. And when I open my heart just a little to these people I serve—look outside myself for a wee bit—my life becomes a rich place and there is no end to what I can give.
My work matters.
Integrity asks me to care about others more than myself. Because being part of a team means there are others who depend on me. And this is what it means to be a good team member.
I do my job the best I can.
Because Brad Smith was right. Life really is a team sport.