I remember asking a new patient I’d just put on an antidepressant to come back and see me within two weeks and again after she’d been on the medication for six weeks.

“Why, so you can make more money off me?”

I explained to her that I was an employed physician, and I got paid the same whether she came back once, twice, or not at all. I also explained why I wanted her to come back in two weeks and again in six weeks.

But what I really wanted to say was this: “You pay me for my expertise, the love is free.”

Because that’s the truth, isn’t it?

There are a lot of jobs we could do for the same (or better) money. I really believe caring for patients is a calling, one we come to because we love taking care of people, of making a positive difference in people’s lives. There are many other reasons as well, from having a steady job to problem-solving to studying the human body—but without the caring, we are no longer “building a cathedral,” we are “cutting stone.”

You know the story about the stone cutters, right? (I’ll paraphrase it here.)

There were three stone cutters working in a quarry and I asked the first one, “What are you doing?”

He stepped back from the piece of stone he was laboriously cutting and said, “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m cutting this piece of stone!”

I moved on and asked the second stone cutter what he was doing. He stepped back from his block of stone and said, “I’m making a living and feeding a family.”

When I asked the third stone cutter what he was doing, he stepped back from his stone and raised his arms high. “I am building a cathedral!”

The love is what motivates us to find the best solution for each one of our patients day after day. Without it, we are just cutting stone.

Are you cutting stone, or are you building a cathedral?

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