InFLUenced by our FLU Shot

The morning our Pharmacist dispensed ‘transcendence”

Rick (husband) and I differ on how we like to spend our weekend mornings.

I’m an artisan type; getting up early to read and write (ok, more reading than writing) savoring the hours before anyone else gets up so I can enjoy my ‘nothing-ism’ alone, in my PJ’s, sipping coffee. My happy place.

Rick, on the other hand, tackles Saturday mornings like a warrior preparing for battle. Once his feet hit the floor, my peaceful procrastination ends with his need for productivity.

One Saturday morning he was up earlier than usual, I hadn’t finished covering the political highlights (aka: Seth Myers and SNL) and he had already stomped down the stairs and was banging around in our kitchen (think Bam Bam).

Rick does everything with the same determination and urgency; whether that’s coaching teams to victory or getting a spoon from a drawer — and that morning felt like we were on The Amazing Race with a detailed game plan on how we’d complete ‘our’ (his) to do list before noon, inclusive of a stop to a pharmacy for our annual flu shot.

I winced (and whined) at the thought of a sore arm at the gym later, but more at the thought of a rushed morning when all I wanted to do was navel gaze.

Begrudgingly, I got dressed and with having been given a full 5 minutes to get ready, pulled on ‘work out’ gear so I could hit the gym later.

So, away we went, squeezing as many errands as was possible in less and less time. I will admit that my mood lightened when Rick told me we’d be visiting Akil’s pharmacy for our flu shot; Akil was known as an influential Independent Pharmacist and I found him to genuinely kind hearted (when we moved to city he had given me the ‘heads up’ on where the best shopping was – you never forget those people ;-)

We arrived at the Pharmacy and were surprised a crowd had already gathered. The store was incredibly welcoming with clowns, face painters, balloons, coffee, cake… Rick had failed to mention that this flu clinic was a special one; exclusive for refugees and had special guests invited like politicians (MP for Richmond Hill), key business owners, immigration stakeholders, community leaders and representatives from all levels of government.

We were ushered into the swell of the gathering and I was soon exchanging a firm handshake with the impeccably dressed Federal Minister of Immigration while I had on my Under Armour Leggings….

I shot Rick an “I promise to hurt you when this is over” look to which he merely shrugged an apologetic “I didn’t realize it was going to be this big so roll with this” look back at me.

My insecurity turned to horror when I caught a glimpse of the Global News team coming in and setting up to film us for, what someone told me would be on, national television.

That was it, I was far too vain (shallow?) to be photographed looking like I was there for a makeover at the beauty counter or directions to the nearest GoodLife Gym. I hid in the feminine protection isle where I met a refugee watching his son get his face painted.

With a Kotex backdrop, we engaged in conversation and I said something about how crazy popular flu shots seem to be so early on a Saturday. To which this super friendly, soft spoken man said ‘yes, it’s popular here today, but, it’s Akil who is popular and we’re here to show our support”. He spoke with emotion as he went on to tell me how much he appreciated all that Akil had done to bring his family to Canada; the sponsorship, the paperwork, the immigration details, the incredible follow up and most of all how well he treated his family (and so many other families) through the process. While he didn’t share the graphic details surrounding the circumstances his family had been through, he didn’t need to, the anguish on his face had said it all.

I followed his gaze over to Akil (who was being swarmed by admirers) and he began speaking trance-like as if it didn’t matter if I was listening:

“Akil is a Saint in our eyes, he’s done so much when he didn’t have to that it hurts me to say that I’ll never, ever be able to repay him….”

I watched Akil with the fascination a child would watch Santa; he had a special appreciative grin on his face and was taking delight in watching ‘his’ families run around with balloon animals, getting their arms punctured and chatting it up over coffee and cake.

While I’m sure Akil was proud of his accomplishment, after all, it wasn’t every day when you rescue entire families from atrocities; but it wasn’t the look of pride on his face.

It was the look of blissful contentment. It’s like he had just received an incredible gift, but the reality was that he had just GIVEN one!(and many, for that matter). But, I guess what I witnessed was one of those moments when we’ve given something that made us happier to give than it was for the receiver to receive.

You remember… those magical times when you were so excited for someone to see what you bought them that you were bursting at the seams; hopping from one foot to the other, biting your lip with a grin, grabbing the gift from their hands so you can open it up quicker for them! Then, finally, that rush you feel when their face lights up…and that warm ‘after glow’ settles over you.

That’s what it was: Akil had that ‘after glow’ from the spirit of giving. And it was contagious. He lifted me out of my self-absorption and I fought my way back through the crowd just in time for the pictures….what I looked like no longer mattered.

Forget dopamine, serotonin, Oxycontin and all those other neurochemicals I regularly write about ….this was the mother load of neuro/spiritual highs. This must be what Abraham Maslow meant when he came up with ‘Transcendence’ his ‘top tier’ in his Hierarchy of Needs model; the level he called ‘metaneeds’ when we get past ourselves and feel the need to help others.

Perhaps the recent trending in bucket lists will shift from what we need to SEE and DO before we die to what we need FEEL and BE.

Maybe spiritual fulfillment doesn’t have to come from a denomination or from diving deeper into ourselves with meditative mantras, but rather, it’s just helping out others in need.

If by helping others with their basic needs (shelter, food & safety) we can allow still others to fulfill their needs for ‘transcendence’ then, maybe, there is hope for our planet’s needs to be met.

This is also how smart companies are extending past ‘self actualization’ to the hearts, minds and souls of their employees when they offer opportunities to do more in the way of ‘giving back’ to communities.

More of us need to learn from those around us who operate at a higher frequency…and from what I could tell, Akil is one of them.

We were silent leaving the pharmacy but once back in our vehicle, we blurted a ‘wow’ in unison. The rest of our ‘to do’ list and getting to the gym didn’t happen and instead we spent the drive home discussing how we can give back. We laughed at what Akil’s reaction would be if we visited his Pharmacy every Saturday morning.

Maybe, when it comes to how we’d like to spend our weekend mornings, Rick and I aren’t that different after all.