Friday, June 1, 2012

Tiny flowers.

I'd run into her on the bridge coming from the school of medicine. During our regular pleasantries, the conversation evolved to career and residency plans. She had some questions, some things she needed to flesh out.

"Let's talk sometime," I said.

"I'd like that," she responded.

So on this day, a week later, we met for a late lunch. Actually, I was the one eating, but that was fine because my plan was for her to mostly talk and for me to mostly listen.

Her chosen field is not my own. Mine? Internal Medicine with a background in Pediatrics (that now is only practiced when trying determine whether or not to take my kids in for something.) Hers? The highly complex and competitive field of Otolaryngology -- or if you like to keep things simple -- ENT for short. Surgeons focused on teeny-tiny structures in very tight quarters. Highly complex. Very competitive.

And that's cool because, if you ask me, all women are "highly complex" and since she's worked hard in medical school, she's also a very competitive residency candidate. So that part was cool, too.

"What are your strengths?" I asked her.

She paused and let her wheels turn for a while. This was a hard question; I could tell. Not because she didn't believe herself to have any strengths, but just because it can be really hard to toot one's own horn if that isn't your thing. And most folks grow up to believe that such a thing isn't polite. Especially when you add in that little voice that tells you not to believe what is great about who you are. So I backed off of that and instead just asked her to tell me her story.

Simple enough.

So she froze for a moment and I stayed quiet until she warmed up.

Then she told me a story about her mother that almost made me cry. It floated out of her lips like some kind of song, and I swear, if she had sung it, it wouldn't have been any sweeter than just hearing her say it like she did.

"When I was in high school, I used to work in my mom's nail shop. My job was to paint designs on peoples' toes with a tiny paint brush and tiny paint bottles. My mother told me, 'Mina, if you take pride in your work, practice and pay attention to detail, you'll do the best job. Then people will come back to you because of this.'"

And so she spent her summers developing a talent for minuscule masterpieces -- one toe and one brush stroke at a time. She learned how to make the flowers look almost real. And people would look down at their feet and feel happy.

Then, they'd come back because it was obvious that she was one who took pride in what she was doing and who treated them like they were the only client she'd have that day.

"That's beautiful." It was all I could get out.

Man. I could completely envision her seated on a low chair, back curved and finger tips positioned over each toe with a tiny brush in hand. I imagined her mother walking by and coaching her in Vietnamese. I allowed myself to see her looking up into her mother's eyes like an apprentice and then trying even harder until she got it perfectly right. Yes. I could see it all.

My eyes welled up with tears after hearing that story. Mina looked back at me, her eyes glistening, too.  Then she smiled this sweet smile that nearly melted my heart.

So I took her picture so I wouldn't forget the moment.

Finally, I said with a big smile,"You will make a perfect otolaryngologist, Mina." Because after hearing that--her story--this is what I felt in the deepest parts of my soul.

Yes, Little Flower. You most certainly will.

Mina? Tell your mama that she done good.

Happy Friday.


  1. Dang. Just...dang.
    That was perfect and beautiful, just as I am sure Mina's flowers were.

    1. I'm so happy she shared that with me. And that I thought to snap her picture because it helps me to relive the moment.

  2. I LOVE this story. It is amazing where we can go from the lessons our parents teach us.

    1. Naijamodel -- It is amazing isn't it? My husband always says, "You don't have to be smart. You just have to be smart."

  3. What a lovely feel-good story. And a great lesson for all.

    1. I know, Mom. I just loved hearing that story.

  4. A beautiful story, a beautiful woman, and isn't it so right that she ended up in a specialty involving tiny structures.

  5. From the Deck of the poop,
    Absolutely lovely story. I only sniffled a couple of times as I imagined her working from her little stool to where she is now... amazing.
    I remember you telling a doctor, when you were just a little tyke, that you were going to be a doctor. And look at you now...


    1. Attention to detail. It has always been your thing. Not "dat 'll do", right?
      With humans and their health and humans and their toes. Either way, it's good to do our best every single time.

      Love you, Poopdeck.

  6. I am amazed by how much you do! And you still find time to encourage others. I have been working on my application for the Georgia Board of Nursing. Given my history- this means a lot of explaining. I read your blog and it seems effortless for you to write your life. Torture for me to do! So, I have been all wrapped up in me. Trying to get some things done. I forget, the things that make my life good revolve around me relating to others and seeing the beauty in their journey. Being awed by the awesomeness of the human condition. Thanks for reminding me!


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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