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NOTE: I’m passing along another thought from Landon Saunders. If you’d like to receive his weekly emails free, there’s a place to click at the end to sign up.


Dr. Helen Ouyang, an emergency medical physician in New York City, said about her experiences over a period of six weeks with the coronavirus: “I’ve never felt less useful as a doctor. The one thing I can do—what I think will matter most, in the end—is just to be a person first, for these patients and their families.”

It’s so easy to overlook the most precious gift we can give others: “just to be a person first.” Think of it—to be a person.

So many things can get in the way of just being a person first. Titles, roles, self-images we have, differences in wealth, status, ethnicity, and gender—any of these can intrude on our just being a person. They can constitute “layers,” “guises,” and even “walls” that come between one person and another.

I was once asked a rather complicated question by a young woman. I answered. Then she said, “Landon, it feels like you didn’t respond to me. It felt like you quickly flipped through the files of your mind to pull out some answer you formulated years before.” I was stunned. She was right—that’s exactly what I had done. I apologized, and I resolved then and there that I would try never to do that again.

What does being a “person first” mean? I think it’s mostly about presence. Being fully present with another is one of the greatest gifts you can ever give. So much failure in relationship comes down to a failure in presence. That is worth pondering, isn’t it?

The young woman I mentioned above really cited me for not being present with her, and I wasn’t—in the way I heard her question or in the way I responded. Without thinking about it, I had become some kind of “authority,” a professional who had answers rather than a person to be with.

The doctor has decided that the thing that matters most is to be a person, to be present, to be fully present. We can do that no matter how many roles or responsibilities we may have.

Just be a person first.


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