rAdIoLoGy NoTeS 22: A Lesson on Detachment While at the Panoramic X-ray Room 8/16/2009 05:24:00 PM

The radiology resident-on-duty at our institution have long been hiding away at the panoramic x-ray room for the night instead of at the call room.

Yesterday, while on duty, I was preparing to go to bed in this x-ray room as usual. I used a plastic chair to get my mattress and comforter stored in a high cabinet. While still on top of the chair, I incidentally spied something on top of the conventional panoramic x-ray machine. I moved the chair closer and climbed on top of it again to get a closer look.

At that point, one of the pediatric residents on duty who was looking for me had opened the door. "What in the world are you doing?," she asked in bewilderment.

"There's a loaf of bread on top of the x-ray machine, " I replied as I quickly jumped off with the bread wrapped in plastic in one hand. I then followed her to the PACS system computer to review images and give her the requested preliminary readings. The rad-tech on duty was on hand as well. We talked about the bread for a while.

After some thought, I remembered what had transpired earlier that day. It was the last day in the department of our two interns (senior clerks) and they decided to give a little treat of bam-i (a fried noodle dish), dinuguan (congealed pork blood), puto (rice cakes) and soft-drinks. I asked then not to leave any of the dinuguan for me though since its one of the few dishes I don't eat. They had promised there was still some bam-i, but by the time I had finished attending to pending patients, all that was left was about a glass of soft-drinks, a single puto and half a loaf of sliced bread (this usually goes with bam-i). I was a little peeved that there was no bam-i in sight. I decided to take the half loaf of bread home for dinner. That half loaf of leftover bread happened to be from the same bakery as the whole loaf that I now discovered hidden on top of the machine. Coincidence? Putting two and two together, I surmised that this hidden loaf was part of the little treat put together by the interns.

I ran into the MRI-tech on duty and I told him about the discovery. We both came to the conclusion that a certain clerical staff in the department must be responsible. She has a reputation of often putting away food given to the department for one reason or another and claiming none was left for this last person who has yet to partake of the celebration though she already neatly hid away her stash. Around mid-afternoon, I also remembered seeing her quickly exit the panoramic x-ray room, which was a little odd since I seldom see her go in there for any reason.

The MRI-tech told me to bring the loaf home. Right now, it is in the family refrigerator, ready for any of my siblings to put some spread on it. On hindsight, I can only shake my head in consternation. The incident reminded me of this point which St. Josemaria wrote in "Friends of God" under the heading of Detachment:

  • Many years ago, twenty-five and more, I used to visit an eating place run by a charitable group for the benefit of beggars who were so poor that their only food each day was the meal they were given there. There was a large canteen looked after by a number of kind women. After the first meal was served, more beggars would come in to finish off the leftovers. Among this second group of beggars one man in particular attracted my attention. He was the proud owner of... a pewter spoon! He would take it carefully out of his pocket, look at it covetously and, after he had downed his meagre ration, he would look at the spoon again with eyes that seemed to exclaim: 'It's mine!' Next he would lick it a couple of times to clean it and then, with deep satisfaction, would hide it away again in the folds of his tattered garment. True enough, the spoon was his! Here was a wretchedly poor beggar who, among his companions in misfortune, thought himself to be rich.

    Around that same time I knew a titled lady who belonged to the Spanish aristocracy. In the eyes of God such a thing counts for nothing. We are all equal, all of us are children of Adam and Eve, weak creatures with virtues and defects, and capable all of us, if Our Lord abandons us, of committing the worst crimes imaginable. Ever since Christ redeemed us there are no distinctions of race, language, colour, birth, or wealth: we are all children of God. This lady of whom I have just been speaking lived in an ancestral mansion. But she spent next to nothing on herself. On the other hand she paid her servants very well and gave the rest of her money to the needy, while depriving herself of almost everything. This lady had many of the goods which so many people are anxious to obtain but she personally was poor, given to mortification and completely detached from everything. Am I making myself clear? In any event, all we need do is listen to the words of Our Lord: 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.'

    If you want to achieve this spirit, I would advise you to be sparing with yourself while being very generous towards others. Avoid unnecessary expenditure on luxuries and comforts, whether out of caprice, or vanity, etc. Don't create needs for yourself. In other words, learn from St Paul 'to live in poverty and to live in abundance, to be filled and to be hungry, to live in plenty and to live in want: I can do all things in him who comforts me'. Like the Apostle, we too will come out winners in this spiritual combat if we keep our hearts unattached and free from ties.

    'All of us who enter the arena of the faith', says St Gregory the Great, 'are committed to fight against evil spirits. The devils possess nothing in this world and therefore, since they enter the lists naked, we too must fight naked. Because, if someone who is clothed fights against someone who goes naked, he will soon be dragged down, since his enemy has something to get a grip on. And what are the things of this world if not a kind of apparel?' (pt. 123)

Attachments and lack of generosity make us appear like caricatures of what we should be, and ridiculous actions are not far behind. It is a detached person's generosity which never ceases to attract and receive praise when it becomes known.