Rays of Hope

Dear Readers,

Time moves so fast. My grandson, Aaron, is a marvel at 20 months old. I remember his father at that age and realize how much I missed due to my medical residency. Every new ability is a wonder. He says my name and I light up.

I sat on a Southwest Airlines plane last week. The seating set up on Southwest can be equated to cattle-class. All the seats are close, uncomfortable, and in violation of our basic human need for personal space. I am always happy if the person to next to me doesn’t smell bad and isn’t drooling on my shoulder. You laugh but I have had both of those situations more than once each.

The flight was a marvel. I was on the aisle. In the window seat was an African- American veterinarian from Birmingham, Alabama. He and I discussed a mutual friend, the state of politics, and a charitable project to prevent college student suicide that he was involved with. My daughter is a veterinarian student and I picked his brain a bit regarding her.

Just as the plane’s door was about to close, a lovely, six-foot-tall young woman took the seat between us. She had not the slightest hesitation to enter the conversation. She is a biostatistics master’s degree candidate at one of our great universities and a research fellow at another. She was full of opinions and confidence, an expert on the opioid crisis, and tremendously well-versed on politics.

I have a tendency lately to feel our generation has truly screwed up the world.

We have a democracy at risk, an environment at a tipping point, and international alliances crumbling. The country is locked in a malaise and little progress is being made. What are we leaving to our grandchildren?

The young woman was such a breath of fresh air. She exuded confidence about the future, ideas to solve problems, and a belief in the personal ability to influence politics. When asked by the veterinarian about her future plans, she clearly said she intended to be the president of the United States. She was serious.

OK, you could say this woman was being grandiose, but it didn’t come off that way. The odds are against her ever being president, of course. But the confidence in the future and the willingness to take personal responsibility cheered my soul.

I will never see either of my seatmates again. Yet, they had a real impact on me. An older African-American gentleman from the Deep South who was tremendously successful and a young woman full of hopes and dreams changed how I look at my grandson. Maybe there is hope. Maybe we boomers screwed things up, but there are rays of hope.

Maybe I don’t owe my precious Aaron as many apologies as I thought. Maybe the sun really will come up tomorrow.

Be safe, think, and live every day with joy,

Scott Rifkin, MD, Publisher

[Originally on JMORE on Dec 5, 2019]