A Life of Leisure

Chicago skyscrapers at night

“Doc, when was the last time you went on a mission trip?” He fixed me in his intense gaze. A few minutes before he had told me all about ending up in Rwanda right after the genocide, assisting with Ebola, and secret missions into Syria.

I looked down at my computer, pretending to type. In truth, I was just trying to avoid eye contact as I thought about his question.

“That would have been Cambodia in…. 2007.”


Had it really been that long?!???!??! 

I felt guilty.

“I’ve been avoiding anything too terribly dangerous while my kiddos were little. Now that they are bigger, I guess I could start thinking about it again.”

He nodded.

“I’ll send you some information…”

Judy Martin at Edwina’s Episodes asked what I would do if I did not have to work. You have all heard about the dream job that will never happen but if I did not need to maintain an income, I would volunteer as a medical aid worker, traveling wherever I was needed.

While I don’t see being able to do that in the foreseeable future, I can do some short stints, a week or two a year, right? 

Here I am in my forties and I still have these romantic notions about saving the world. Truthfully, though, I am not sure I am brave enough to do anything about it. I kinda like my life right now. I can talk a big talk but the follow through? 

Time will tell.


92 thoughts on “A Life of Leisure

  1. It’s completely natural for you to want to stay safe when you have children. There are plenty of ways to do good in your own backyard for now, and that’s exactly what you’re doing. PLUS you do good here on your blog. Stay healthy and there will be time for those other adventures later when your kids are adults. On the other hand, if you want to go on a mission trip to Africa or Syria, now, that’s okay, too.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. The two years I spent running a mission school in a poor rural community in South Africa were among the richest in my life. It was tough, but it was wonderful. My daughter came with me, and she survived just fine. I’m still in contact with several of the kids – in fact their children call me granny, and they refer to the Girl Child as their sister. I guess what I’m saying is … do it.

    Liked by 5 people

      • Truly, Victo, it was! I really need to set time aside to tell that story – I mean on my blog … The difficulty has been in knowing where to start. But it was life-changing, for me and for my daughter and also for the children and their families whose lives we touched. Recently when I was in South Africa for my Mom’s memorial, three of my kids came. These are the three with whom I maintain the closest relationship. Each of them spoke of the enormous impact my parents had had on their lives just by welcoming them into their homes when they visited them with me. You don’t have to go into war zones. You don’t have to expose yourself to deadly diseases. Just … find a community that needs help, and help them for whatever time you can, and involve your children if possible. But do it in a way that enables them to give to you and teach you as well. Become a part of their community. You may lose some income on the deal, but the riches you’ll gain are incalculable.

        Liked by 4 people

      • You’re right. I have one more I want to post about my Dad, and then I think I’ll start a series about our time in Sekhukhune. Apart from the fact that it’s a fun story to tell (and, I hope, to read), I really want people to understand how EASY it is to change lives. If you can make a giant sacrifice, great – but small helps can be HUGE. Thanks for the encouragement… πŸ™‚

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Hold it now, your kids are still going to need you especially when they hit their teens. He’s doing a guilt trip but how guilty are you going to feel when you get seriously ill and won’t be there for those children?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. We don’t hang out, don’t share long conversations every week and (truthfully) I didn’t read the links. However, what I learned about you reading your posts, I imagine you will be astounded by what you do once you’re no longer required to perform hands-on daily care for your growing humans. They inspire us in the most marvelous ways.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Maybe something like Doctors Without Borders ? I had a realtor friend who traveled with her physician husband for a week or two every year, mostly to central America, Haiti. They had the best stories. And their family survived the short absences.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. You have children, and you are right in making them first in your life. When they have flown the next you can think about alternative contributions but right now I think you are making a huge contribution, raising them and taking care of your patients. One of my favorite charities is Doctors Without Borders – that is one incredible group of people who put their lives on the line every day and sometimes lose them. I’m not sure I would be brave enough to do that, even if I had the right credentials.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. It’s a difficult situation. Many in our profession have the desire to save the world – I went into medicine BECAUSE of that desire. My big dream was to work for Doctors Without Borders, until I realised the massive danger many people are in when they go out with MSF. I want to save the world, and I might even be willing to do so in less-than-ideal circumstances, but I’m just not sure I’m willing to risk my life doing it. I have grown to LIKE being alive. Maybe that’s not terribly Hippocratic of me… and recent bombings of MSF hospitals have solidified that.

    There are “safer” medical missions but I’m not always sure they do as much for the community as they do for the doctors’ consciences. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great for a surgeon to go out for a week or two and doing unpaid cleft-lip/cataract surgeries etc; but they go in and they go out and ultimately don’t address the massive underlying problems of access to services. It’s not sustainable, but one may argue that that is the mandate of governing bodies and not the doctors…

    Anyway, I could go on and on debating with myself and ultimately becoming quite demoralising. What I mean to say is: I get where you’re coming from; and I get the internal struggle. But what you are doing – the healthcare you are rendering with empathy to your patients – is not less important than a medical mission.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. A church in our community has one night a month where doctors and nurses volunteer to provide check-ups and whatnot for the uninsured. I think it’s cool how they do that, and with less danger than leaving the country.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I love doing those stints now that my son is an adult. Not as a medical doctor, but someone who can help manage/organize aid operations. This year it was for refugees in Kenya and Jordan. I still have the same dream at my ‘mature age’ πŸ™‚ I’m positive you’ll do more when the time is right.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The trouble with these people is that they don’t stop because they don’t know how to. They are very good at guilt trips. I contribute a fair amount (several hundred dollars) to Breast Cancer Research but that does not stop them from calling to ask me to contribute an extra $2 a week – less than a cup of coffee – and next year it will be another $2+ a week. I have made my decision that I am not going to contribute any further and if they continue calling me I will come out of the contribution thing altogether.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. A friend of mine who is a nurse travels to Haiti for a week two times a year. She trains locals to administer mess, bandage wounds, etc. she waited until her kids were in high school.

    Whenever it feels right to you is probably the best time to do it!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. You altruism is commendable. But your children have to be your first priority. Do something safer like domestic violence help or suicide counseling and doctoring for homeless in you area. There is a lot you can do that won’t get you blown up or catching a disease.
    Then again, when would you have time to do another thing and still have a mind? There will be time in your future, but concentrate on those kiddos.They won’t be around forever.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Um, you can’t help save the world right here in the good old USA?

    Of course, you have to ultimately do what’s right for you, but if it were me, I’d be inclined to stay with my kids right here. Not only would I be concerned about keeping them safe (no way would I take them along while doing mission work), I would be concerned about my own health and safety and being there for them for years to come. I’d also worry about bringing some horrible disease home to them. But then that’s me, and I’m very selfish.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Interesting conversation Victo. I’m of many different opinions. One factor that should be considered, more so if you are going into undeveloped areas, is that once you enter your 50’s your energy levels drop and your body needs more attention to produce less physical work. That said, you have a deeper understanding with an increased ability to establish systems and programs and to lead others – depending on the type of work you would like to do – the best age to do it is affected. Hands on – earlier; organizational – later.

    I’ve known women who have taken children into less industrialized areas and the kids come out amazing – there is a benefit for the kids to experience how one lives without twitter. They learn to be more giving and caring humans on a person to person level. Grace. So there is that. Many must have considered what your are – perhaps you could ask your recruiter for a real person to interview who has taken children into 3rd world countries. With the vaccinations and preparations now available I doubt the risk is as high as you think.My concern would mostly be with political stability. As long as there is no violence or pending violence, then the risk drops considerably,.

    Helping in the US is also a great option, as CM says. Lots of choices Victo and an honorable desire.You will always be able to think of a reason not to go so follow your intuition and dreams.-

    Liked by 1 person

      • When I was in B-school we developed a framework for a major medical equipment manufacturer,to allow them to make decisions of where to invest and the probability of success outside of N. America. I was responsible for the local culture/safety/ health aspects of the investment. We specifically investigated China with on site interviews and exploration of the market and culture by spending time there. We also looked at many 3rd world countries and a real handy reference is the CIA Worldbook – a free online resource that is extremely detailed in descriptions of health, corruption, political stability as well as everything else you could want to know. It had to be kept in mind that this was an American generated resource but beyond that it seemed very open and accurate. And detailed. It is fascinating reading and I can spend hours just browsing. Anyway, I was surprised at how few countries were actually violent and dangerous to visitors. There are some very funny things that the media don’t report – like in Indonesia -until recently – there was an long running war but all involved were careful not to hurt visitors. It was rated as safe as long as the visitor did not engage in politics.

        Anyway, our media likes to sell content by focusing on the violence – it is the exception rather than the rule.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. Do you think there are other ways to try and save the world without placing yourself in harms way? Is doing mission work expected of doctors for reasons other than what non-medical people understand?

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Your day will come again. I have a friend who goes to Haitii a few times a year. His kids are
    all grown, and he has a ton of grandkids. This is one of his many ways of giving back.
    You will have lots of time later on. A guy MD really does not have as much responsibility
    raising kids. His wife was a psychiatrist, so she was home at night.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I think you might be underestimating the number of people you have saved, one at a time, one day at a time – maybe not in the ” charge up the defribrillator” kind of way, but because you keep doing what your doing, despite the paperwork, the bureaucracy, the number of ungratefuls…

    I went Haiti after the earthquake – it was unencumbering in a surreal way. Everything and anything I did was appreciated. No one critiqued me, evaluated my work.

    I get what your saying.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There are dozens that can come in and take my place here. But not everyone is willing or able to go somewhere like Haiti. I make a difference in small ways here, true. But man, what I could do without an EHR… πŸ˜‰


  18. Go for it! Do it while you’re still young enough and agile enough to make it to the top of a hill without having the rest of the group waiting at the top…and pretending you can hop right along without having to stop to breathe…or rest. πŸ™‚ I like your blog…very interesting… πŸ™‚ My oldest daughter is a spinal cord injury nurse , retiring in a few months, thinking about Doctors Without Borders, etc. I’m not a medical person, but have done some “jungle” treks, and wish I could still do it.

    Liked by 1 person

      • yeah, we should all save the sitting around, thinking of stuff we wish we would do, for when we’re old. My Doc and I have this conversation all the time…he always says “you’re not 80,” I tell him he has to keep me alive for another decade at least. I have good English/German bones. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  19. As much as going to third world countries and helping the less fortunate can make really big differences in many lives in a relatively short amount of time, whose to say that what you do every single day as a mother to your children and doctor to your patients, doesn’t make an equal or larger contribution in helping people? Does it look different? You bet. I totally get your dream job idea, though. Helping to better the lives of others is a focus for so many of us. What that ends up looking like is so varied. And it’s all valid. Don’t feel guilty.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. VD – don’t let anyone ever make you feel guilty that you aren’t ‘out there’ volunteering. What you are doing everyday with your patients is just as important and no one has the right to plant a seed that you aren’t pulling your weight in the socially responsible department.
    When you are ready – if that time ever comes again now that you have children in your life – you’ll know it in your heart.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I’d like to volunteer abroad in pursuit of peace, but I can’t do it while my children are little. Once they’re bigger, if I still have the passion, I hope I will be brave enough to go where my dreams of peace lead me.

    For now, my foremost obligation and aspiration is to usher my boys safely to adult … and so about the other things I dream, and write.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. There is a time for every season, turn, turn… Cambodia 2007? (Who with?) Most of your colleagues never have and never will go. So congrats to you.
    Daughter #1 took a sabbatical between two residencies and went to Tchad and Kenya with MSF. She loved it. (And cried and cried when she would lose children to AIDS. I suspect she will probably go back. In a while.
    You? I’m sure you will. Once kiddies are grown a bit. πŸ™‚
    (Don’t rush yourself all the time Victoire…) πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

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