Nancy L. Snyderman, M.D., F.A.C.S., is Chief Medical Editor, NBC News. / Andrew Eccles / NBC
I have never really thought much about volunteerism. Iíve always just done it. Iím a lifelong Girl Scout who learned to give back as a kid. I grew up around farm families, and when a tornado took a barn down, you helped put it back up. If someone lost a crop, you showed up with vegetables from your garden. You donít pass a car accident and not stop. You donít walk by someone on the street and not offer a dollar. Those actions are quintessentially human. A person in need is my brother or sister.
As a young surgeon, I operated on a man to remove a tumor. He came back and said he was in pain. I gave him the right medicines and told him to buck up. In 48 hours, he committed suicide. Thatís when I realized my work had been about making things better by cutting things out, not about tending to the whole person; I had been listening but not really hearing. His death forever altered who I was as a physician. I now work to destigmatize mental illness, including serving on the board of Trinity Counseling Service in Princeton, N.J., which offers mental health services to people regardless of ability to pay. I truly believe a community cannot be economically strong if itís not mentally strong.
Make A Difference Day is your chance to learn that the best way to feel good about yourself is to give something of yourself away. Youíll come back with a tank even more full than when you started. Youíll pay it forward in ways you canít even comprehend now. The person whose life you alter will go out and alter 10 more lives, and theyíll alter 10 more. The reach goes far beyond this day.