Blog | Friday, February 23, 2018


“I am ready to stop all this stuff,” she said.

“You can, you know. You can.” That response surprised her. I rested my palm over the top of her hand and repeated myself. “You can.”

She smiled at me and I smiled back. “You say that like you believe it.”

“It's because I do.”

After that, I changed the subject. We talked about her beautiful skin that lay over her high cheekbones like a brown satin sheet. I asked where she'd left her wrinkles and pretended to look under the bed and outside the door. That made her laugh.

“Guess it's just my genes,” she giggled.

“I'll say,” I replied.

“The rest of this in my genes, too. Like people in my family wired for strongholds.”

“Yeah. My family, too.”

Her eyes widened. “For real?”

“Oh yeah.”

She sat there staring out of the window after that. My hand was still on top of hers and now she was holding my fingertips tightly. I let her.

“You think I can stop?”

“I think you can do anything.”

“You saying that like you mean it.”

“It's ‘cause I do.”

That soft smile crept over her lips again. I curled my lips and nodded for added confirmation.

And that was it.

I have no idea if she will overcome this addiction after this hospitalization. But here's what I do know: The tiniest spark of belief from one person can ignite a fire of change in another. I've learned that haters and naysayers can be found everywhere. I prefer to shock the shit out of people with real, true optimism.

I do.

You are not a “crackhead.”

You are not a “drunk.”

You are not a “homeless lady.”

You are not a “psych patient.”

You are none of these things. You are your possibilities. And you are a child of God.

And no. I don't always get all of this perfect. And yes, I do fall short on empathy sometimes. But mostly, I keep trying with all of my might to find the intersection in our similarities. And what I know for sure is that it is always, always there.


Only grace separates circumstances in most instances. At least that's what I think.


Kimberly Manning, MD, FACP, FAAP is an associate professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia where she teaches medical students and residents at Grady Hospital. This post is adapted from Reflections of a Grady Doctor, Dr. Manning’s blog about teaching, learning, caring and growing in medicine and life. It has been adapted and reprinted with permission. Identifying information has been changed to protect individuals’ privacy.