A dear couple that I care for in my practice was recently in the office for a check-up. Because of some shortness of breath that the woman was experiencing, I recommended she have a sonogram of the heart. As we scheduled the test, she commented, “Any day but Wednesday is OK.” What was the problem with Wednesdays? Well, this couple, in their 70’s had a commitment each Wednesday. They pick up surplus bread and other items from Mrs. Baird’s Bread factory, and deliver it to food banks and other community organizations that then distribute the food to the needy.
A gratifying and emerging topic of study in medicine and sociology has good news for this couple and others like them. Stephen Post has summarized the findings in a recent book. “Why Good Things Happen to Good People.” Volunteerism, it turns out, has beneficial effects on those who volunteer! Sometimes, it seems, things work out just as we would want them to. Apparently, goodness has its own rewards. Among the benefits are a reduced level of stress and better medical health overall.
Now of course, just because one volunteers doesn’t mean that she will never become sick. But in medicine, we always try to improve the odds of having good health. We know, for instance, that not everyone who smokes will develop lung disease – we do know, though, that not smoking improves the odds of having good lung health.
Fortunately, the patient’s test was just fine. An adjustment to one of her medications helped her feel better. The test, by the way, was done on a Friday.
If you have a comment or question about this blog entry, email Dr. Roffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Joel Roffman has spoken to many church, synagogue and support groups. His book, Coping with Adversity: Judaism’s response to illness and other life struggles is enjoyable, uplifting and informative. It is meant for people of all faiths and can be viewed at www.copingwithadversity.com. It is available at Barnes and Noble, Borders, and Amazon.com.