A Simple Smile

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“Merudh, get up, get up!” It was four in the morning, and I was four years old. The heart-pounding sound of my dad’s voice woke me out of a deep sleep. As I peeked through my bedroom door, I saw my father bolt out of our house with my mother in his arms. Before I knew it, he was back. Although I was terrified of where he might take me, he picked me up and carried me to the car. He frantically adjusted the seats in our two-passenger Nissan Sentra, trying to cram me in. I watched my mother taking long, deep breaths, as though someone had turned off her oxygen supply. With no time to entertain my fear, I dashed back to the house in search of my Fisher-Price Doctor’s Kit. I found it underneath my bed, and rushed back to the car. Taking out a yellow, plastic stethoscope and a plastic band-aid, I ran to the passenger side. “Where do you feel hurt, mommy?” She smiled at me. I didn’t know it yet, but I was about to become a big brother. Even though I could do nothing to take away her pain, my mother’s heartwarming smile was a big, unmistakable “thank you”. Who could have known that such a simple expression would guide me for the rest of my life? A few summers ago, I persuaded my Uncle Ashwin, a gastroenterologist (digestive system doctor), to let me accompany him on his hospital rounds. To my surprise, our first stop was a local free healthcare clinic, where a great many constipated patients were crowded into a small room. My uncle had volunteered to give checkups that day. As I stood in the room, I noticed the patients’ tension levels quickly rising. I wanted to help too, but how could I? My uncle had strictly forbidden me to give any medical advice to the patients, or to touch any medical instruments. The nauseating stench of body odor in the room didn’t help either. I couldn’t even find an air freshener! Suddenly, however, I noticed something interesting: all of the patients who were standing looked similarly irritable, whereas the few seated patients wore relatively neutral expressions. Hoping for the best, I went into the storage room, found some folding chairs, and set them up for the standing patients. The change in their expressions was miraculous; it had actually worked! Watching the smiles that broke across their faces as they sat down, I realized that as long as I am driven to be helpful, I can be of assistance in any situation. Like my mother’s smile, the happiness I saw on the faces of my uncle’s patients assured me that lending a hand is simply the right thing to do. All my life, I have followed my instinct to help others, whether by responding to emergencies with my trusty Fisher-Price Doctor’s Kit, setting up chairs for patients, or going out of my way to help a teacher or classmate. Perhaps this is why I aspire to have a career in medicine…or perhaps I just enjoy seeing the people around me smile.

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