By Michael J. Ribas, BA, CHPC

A couple of years ago, I was back home in San Diego and a friend told me that my cousin Howard, with whom I’d lost touch, had had a stroke and was in a rehab facility. Howard was a bit of legend in his late teens and early twenties for many reasons, not all of them good—he was a bit wild and very strong, and he liked to enjoy himself. I’d always been proud of him nonetheless.


Now, here it was twenty years later, and a guy who was all but indestructible in his youth was in a wheelchair with the left side of his body no longer under his control. At that time, I was at the top of my profession and deeply entrenched in self-development and health. When I heard about Howard, I was ready to visit him and share my knowledge with him to save the day. I had plans to tell him about all the wonderful ways he could go about restoring his body and regaining his health. I wanted to give him hope and strength to help him overcome his challenges.


Well, as they say, the best-laid plans …. As it turned out, Howard ended up inspiring me, motivating me, and moving me to want to be better still. I went there to see him and give him what I felt was my best offering. What happened instead was that he, even in his diminished state, gave me something unexpected, something I needed and something that I will always treasure.


What was this gift? It was his incredible resolve. That day, while sitting in his wheelchair, his left arm and leg practically useless, he told me that he didn’t care what his body had to say, what the doctors had to say, that he was going to walk out of that place. Period. No discussion, no consensus, no excuses. That was just how it was going to be. Here I was, with all my faculties in order and all my limbs working to save the day, and my cousin, operating at around 40% at best, gave me inspiration in a way that few, if any, could. While I went in with the intent to give, what happened instead was something different, something unexpected. I received.


Often when our aim is to give, we end up receiving something even more valuable than what we offered.