September clinic at Mercer was noticeably cooler than clinic day in August. Here, on the first day of fall, the change of seasons reminds me that I’m approaching a full year of volunteering with Mercer Clinic. I’ve seen our little outreach building in just about every kind of weather that our (admittedly mild) Northern California climate offers. In a sense, my total time at the clinic has been brief – especially since our clinic day happens monthly – but at the same time, a year is not a small part of a human life.
In a similar way, the human connections I’ve seen at the clinic would be considered brief to any outside observer – and yet they are disproportionately impactful. As month follows month, each time I volunteer I’m starting to see more than one familiar face during the day. Beyond familiar, in fact. It would be fair to call many of these familiar faces – human, canine, or feline – friends. The human ability to bond with another being through empathy can transcend the limitations of time, place, differences of experience, and sometimes even differences of species!
Meditating on how these admittedly brief vet/patient/client visits have affected my life, inspires me to improve the other encounters in my life. Every day we reach many intersections. We cross paths with other drivers or pedestrians at literal intersections on roads. We have brief interactions with the stranger behind the counter or the person coming out the door. Every meeting, every intersection, is a snapshot of two lives: lives full of individual history, cares, and hopes. In that intersection, those two lives share a connection, if for the briefest of moments, and that’s our opportunity to pour something good from our lives into others.
In sharing goodness, enriching other lives, we enrich our own. That is an idea which I have observed to ring true – both for myself, and for my fellow volunteers at Mercer. Seeing these new friends each month is a refreshing reminder of what we are trying to do as medical professionals. It’s a reminder of our drive to bring healing to the world around us. It’s an encouragement for us to maintain our studies, so that we will have high quality knowledge and skills. That knowledge and skillfulness is the gift that our lives will give to those around us throughout our careers.
A gift of empathy doesn’t have to be career-defining to change someone’s life, though – or, at least, to change their day. No matter what your occupation or your social position, you have the opportunity, time and again each day, to turn a chance encounter into a memory. Let’s join together to make fellow lives better! Maybe you can find an opportunity to be kind rather than angry at that guy who cut you off in traffic. Maybe you take a moment to share a friendly greeting with a stranger passing in the hall. Maybe you choose to slow down for a moment to tell that loved one you interact with all day long, how much you appreciate them being a positive part of your life. These moments we share make our lives brighter too. Even a dog recognizes someone they got along well with last month. Even a nervous kitty can relax a bit when they meet a human who was kind before. Taking a moment to enrich one another works for our best friends; surely it can work for humans too!
by Russ-Erik Darnell
DVM Candidate, UCD School of Veterinary Medicine Class of 2021
Mercer Clinic for the Pets of the Homeless Webmaster and Historian