Probably every medical student, sometime during his/her application process for medical school, has said, “I want to help people.”  Probably almost everybody meant it at the time, and probably most of those almost everybody still would say it again now.  And it’s not hard to conjecture that most medical students want to help people even in non-medical ways.  At least, that’s the way it is for me.

But it’s actually pretty difficult to do a lot of helping people, especially in medical school.  I’m so busy taking care of my life (or at least trying to) that I have very little time and/or willpower to care about anyone else.  It’s ironic how I don’t help people because I’m so busy learning to someday help people.  I think that’s really the challenge of being a medical student: how to develop your heart for helping people while making sure to keep up with the demands of medical school.

As a first year medical student, there’s really nothing you can do medically helpful.  When I hear that my friend’s dad or mom is really sick, I can’t do anything more than the average person.  That’s perfectly understandable, though.  I can help those around me in other ways!  Like saying encouraging things, or feeding people snacks, or praying for them, or sharing my notes with a classmate, or giving rides to friends without cars, etc.  How awesome ’tis to be a helpful person!

But there are days when I can’t help.  Or more accurately, days when I won’t help.  For example, I find out a classmate is struggling in school.  I want to help!  But I can’t.  More accurately, I won’t.  Because I barely have enough time to survive my own workload.  Or let’s say there’s some event at school or at church where they need some help.  I want to help!  But I won’t.  I need to study.  Or if I don’t need to study, I need to savor what little free time I have to clean my apartment or blog or do something relevant to my personal life.

I want to be that guy who’s so smart and does everything so quickly that I have abundant time left to teach others everything.  I want to be that guy who is so put-together and in control of my life that I can help others.  I want to save lives, protect the vulnerable, fight for justice, comfort the weary, provide for the poor, teach children, stop global warming, love my enemies, have great relationships with family and friends, and still have time to blog every week.  I want to be a super hero.

But I’m not a super hero.  Dang it.  I can barely take care of myself.  Ain’t nobody got no time for no nobody else but me.  I need to block myself away from the needs of the world for about a decade (or why not a couple decades?) until I become a super doctor at the top of the world, because that will then allow me to “help people,” just like I’ve always wanted… yeah.

I think wanting to help people is the easy part.  But because I’m not perfect, the question is, “At what cost?”  Do I have what it takes to help even when I have so little to give?

Simeon Koh

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