I hope this note finds you well.
Among the most gratifying aspects of the practice of medicine are the relationships you develop with your patients and friends. Being a family doctor allows you to be with families from cradle to grave. I used to joke that for the first five years of practice you see everyone who comes through the door, in part, because you aren’t sure if you are going to survive. The second five years, the ones who don’t like you, tend to drift away. After fifteen years, you begin to nudge those you don’t like toward the door. So, for most of us, we spend our years of practice with people we like, who like us.
One of those families in whose care I had the pleasure and honor to participate was the Elrod family of Saline County. Jimmy and Kathy Elrod came to see me early in my practice and we developed a close relationship. I watched as their children grew up; one of those kids, Josh Elrod, and I developed a close bond.
As most of you know, he grew into a well-spoken, bright, industrious young man. About 14 years ago, he called and asked if he could come by the office and talk to me about a project he was pursuing. He was in the process of creating a magazine reflecting modern life in Saline County called Saline Lifestyles. As I write this note, he is now finishing the 13th year of publishing his journal.
He knew of my penchant for writing and asked if I would write essay pieces to open his journal. Needless to say, I was tickled to death to be asked and readily agreed. My one stipulation was that I didn’t want to write about the practice of medicine: nothing technical, nothing that was too heavy, just the musings of an old man on life.
Since that time, he and I have had a delightful relationship. And every month or so, I send him a missive that he publishes under the title: Notes from Doctor Sam. Most of these have reflected my impressions of life in Saline County and rural Arkansas in general.
The very first essay related a chance encounter I witnessed between a homeless man and waitress in a local café. It was raining, and the man came walking in from the storm. He left his pack at the entry and sat down in the booth next to me. The waitress brought him a cup of coffee and took his order. Soon, she returned with his scrambled eggs, ham, and toast. She refilled his coffee cup and then quietly asked, “May I sit with you?” The man looked up from his food, smiled and nodded. I could not hear what was said but when he finished and got up to leave, I heard her say, “Have a good journey.”
I think at that moment in time, that waitress reflected the good people of Saline County at their very best.
Have a good journey and stay safe.
Dr. Sam Taggart is a retired doctor/ writer/ marathon runner in practice in Benton for the last 35 years. He recently published The Public’s Health: A narrative history of health and disease in Arkansas, published by the Arkansas Times. His two other books, With a Heavy Heart and We All Hear Voices are available at your local booksellers or online at Amazon.com.