Lessons From Dad’s Hospital Bedside

My dad was recently hospitalized with atrial fibrillation, an erratic heartbeat that can lead to a number of health problems. On top of that, he was suffering from vertigo and ringing in his ears that caused constant nausea. It was a debilitating combination that raised concerns about cardiac arrest and stroke. I’ve never seen my dad in such a weakened state. For a man whose strength and consistency has been a staple in my life, it caused me to pause and consider the temporary nature of life and how quickly our circumstances can change.

As we waited on the doctors to come to a conclusion on prognosis and treatment, I sat by Dad’s bedside and prayed with him. I’m not sure if it was his condition or the setting, but dad and I talked about things that mattered. Moments like this, although challenging, bring clarity to some of life’s greatest truths. Unfortunately, we rarely slow down long enough to have these types of conversations. In turn, we miss the most important aspects of life.

Amid our conversation, doctors and nurses rushed in and out of the room. Their routine created a buzz that rippled throughout the ER. Some of them paused and made it personal while others simply did their job and continued on to the next room. I could tell that Dad was taking it all in.

In a groggy and half-alert voice, he said, “If I know anything, it’s this: life is all about how you treat people.”

This was a nugget of gold—purified truth unearthed after sixty-one years of living. I could see stories running through Dad’s mind, stories that brought this truth to life and forged it in his character. Dad has a PhD in treating people well. But sadly, the cultural value of treating people well has diminished. In a fast-paced, digital age, we seem to be more focused on information and efficiency. As a result, conversations have become less meaningful and people have become a means to an end.

But there’s a growing desire for authenticity that is starting to break through the cultural cracks. People want real conversations with real people about things that really matter. That type of authenticity beings with how well you treat others.

The Underlying Problem With Winning Friends and Influencing People

When Dale Carnegie wrote How to Win Friends and Influence People, his principles and thinking were spot on. But the problem is, there’s an unspoken desire behind every principle that we tend to ignore. Beneath every action and thought is a motive that we must understand. If you’re trying to win friends and influence people for your own personal gain, it’s a slippery slope that is tainted by selfish desires.

In effect, people become profit or conversions or members or bottom lines. When you lose sight of people, when they become leverage, you lose sight of life altogether. People aren’t pawns in your chess game and checkmate isn’t the ultimate goal. People are living, breathing human beings with real stories and real tangible value—we have to begin treating them that way.

Here are three things you can start with today.

Look People in the Eye and Smile

On the surface this seems too easy and even elicits a “Yeah, yeah, I got it” response. But honestly, how many people do you know that truly look you in the eye and smile when you’re around them?

The cultural norm of social connectivity has caused us to shift our focus from the people that are in front of us to the people that are on the other end of our phone. In fact, if you’re reading this on your phone while you should be engaged with someone who’s there with you, stop. Put your phone down and have a conversation. We have to reprioritize our thinking and begin valuing the people that are in front of us more than the people who aren’t.

I was speaking with a group of customer services representatives recently and in the hotel lobby where we were staying was a coffee shop run by a man named Akbar. Truthfully, Akbar should have been teaching the conference. This guy had a contagious personality that lifted everyone he came in contact with.

As I thought about it, his secret was simple: he looked people in the eye, and he smiled at them. We often overlook the simple and the mundane, but it’s these things that really matter.

You value others when you acknowledge them.

Show Up and Serve

I’ll never forget my grandfather’s funeral. It was one of those moments in my life when I stood in awe at the legacy he left by the life he lived. The visitation line wrapped around the building and people stood for more than three hours to pay their respect to our family. I was only nineteen at the time, but I learned an invaluable lesson that day: show up and serve people.

I remember how it felt when people shared what my grandfather meant to them and how he had influenced their life. This was their moment of reciprocity. These people were paying respect to a man who had shown up and served them well. People are always in need of someone to be present, so we can’t neglect the opportunity to meet them in the moment.

Too many people ask, “What will I get?” Instead, we have to ask, “What can I bring?” As you learn to shift your focus toward a life of generosity, a life that makes itself available, you’ll find that people are more willing to show up and serve you during your times of need.

When we learn how to show up and invest in others with a pure heart and clear agenda, it pays dividends for life.

Treat Everyone Like They’re a World Champion at Something

I learned this from my mentor, Kevin Adams. Kevin and I were recently talking about how to cultivate humility and he said, “Being humble is about how you respond to people. Humility treats everyone like they’re a world champion at something.” This was a profound, a-ha moment. Arrogant people treat others terribly because they value themselves more. But a truly humble person treats others well because they value them as better than themselves. As Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, “In humility, count others more significantly than yourselves.”

How do you respond to people? Do you value their gifts, recognize and celebrate their strengths?

Too often, we fall into the trap of seeing what’s wrong, especially with people. From that perspective, we couldn’t possibly focus on what is right. You can’t celebrate someone when all you see is what they do wrong. To live a life of humility is to live a life that treats others well and celebrates them.

Although I hate to see my dad suffer and struggle, it gave us the opportunity to talk about some really important things. In addition, I’m grateful for the opportunity to look him in the eye, be present in his moment of need, and tell him that he’s a world champion at treating people well.



*Note* Dad came home from the hospital and his AFib has subsided. However, he’s still suffering from tinnitus in his ear, so all prayers appreciated.

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2 Responses to Lessons From Dad’s Hospital Bedside

  1. Jane Tuttle April 22, 2017 at 2:57 pm #

    I hope your dad is better. This is an insightful blog post and the truth. Community is built on treating one another respectfully. The fine art of listening and agreeing to disagree on something has been lost on many. Compromise is seen as weakness rather than seeing a benefit for both. Merely smiling at someone can have more impact than you ever imagine. Thank you for sharing this message!

    • Matt Ham April 24, 2017 at 8:45 am #

      You’re right, Jane. Thanks so much for sharing.