Recollections of an Empty Cup

It’s the one year anniversary of my accident. I remember rehab.

There’s pain, discouragement, and negativity in every hospital. Alongside darkness, you’ll find hope and healing in the people who work there.

I watched them come to work like most do, kind of blah. But, somewhere between their first cup of coffee and seeing me, they embraced their “calling to serve.” It’s a selfless, breathtaking transformation.

Someone wheeled me to the kitchen where physical therapy patients ate breakfast together. I watched PT and OT professionals graciously make eggs to order, even though food services had provided breakfast. Discouraged patients often complained rather than thanked.

I saw them grumbled at and puked on. I saw one brain-damaged patient aggressively push a therapist against the wall.


Our own pain prevents gratitude. Lack turns to bitterness.

If not pain, competence constricts and arrogance chokes gratitude. We withhold gratitude when our skills excel theirs and they should do better. We aren’t grateful when their devotion falls below ours; we’re better. Their lack stifles our gratitude.


  1. Finds good, even when things are bad.
  2. Appreciates service.
  3. Honors those who demonstrate noble values.
  4. Celebrates progress.


I told the staff they were remarkable. I thanked them as they served. I was an empty cup. I gave them what I had, words.

Small things matter more when big isn’t possible.

When you can’t do something, say something. You are never helpless even when all you do is receive. Empty cups offer attention, appreciation, respect, and honor.

Lessons from rehab:

  1. Feeling powerless is a decision.
  2. Power is perception. Believe your words matter.
  3. Affirm more. Could you affirm more and correct less?

A favorite post written three weeks after the accident, Dec. 10, 2011: The Hidden Power of Weakness.

The original “Gifts From Empty Cups,” written Dec. 13, 2011.

What if you pretended you were an empty cup? How might it impact what you see and say, today?