Christmas 1990

By

Barry Whitworth, DVM

Area Food/Animal Quality and

Health Specialist for Eastern Oklahoma 

It was Christmas eve.  I was closely monitoring the clock, counting down the minutes until I could head home.  The boss had talked about closing the clinic down early, and I was ready.  My wife and new 9-month old daughter were waiting for me to get off work so we could begin our holiday celebrations.

In the midst of my Yuletide daydreaming, I heard the sound of the boss drive up to the clinic.  He motioned for me to get in and silence filled the truck for a moment.  Finally, the boss broke the quiet, “Barry, I think it’s time for you to ‘get on down the road’.”  When he said, ‘get on down the road’, he was not talking about a farm call.  He was firing me on Christmas Eve.

As I stepped out of the pickup and walked back in the clinic, my mind was racing with the reality of being jobless.  I should have seen this coming.  In fact, in the 8 months that I had worked there, my boss and I had never been on the same page.  I had actively been searching for another job, a fact that I never hid from him.  I left that day with a sense of defeat heavy in my chest.  I prided myself on being an excellent employee.  In my whole life I had never lost a job.  I was accustomed to getting pay raises and praise from my employers.  Instead, that day I was getting a pink slip to take home to my family for Christmas.

As I begin my drive home, fears, doubts, and anxieties began to make themselves at home in my mind.  A sea of questions began to rush in, “Would I ever get another job?” “What would potential employers think when they found out I had been fired?” “Was I cut out to be a veterinarian after all?”  My confidence was wounded, and I felt inadequate.  The classmates I had studied and trained with over the past four years seemed to be breezing through their first year with no hiccups; yet, I had met many obstacles during my first job.  Deep down inside, I felt like an embarrassment to my alma mater.

I rounded the corner and the small trailer that we had called home over the past eight months was in site.  The truck rolled to a stop, and I paused a moment to collect my thoughts before heading inside to break the news to my wife.  The holiday scents and sounds greeted me as I opened the door.  My wife had been preparing all day for our first Christmas with our new baby.  She turned to welcome me home with a cheerful face, but she knew instantly that I did not bring good news.  Tears began to flow when I told her that I had lost my job.  Together we began to wonder how we would make it.  It was not just the two of us anymore.  We had our baby girl to worry about, too.  How would we take care of her?  What if she got sick?  In reality, neither my parents or my in-laws would then or now ever let their granddaughter go without, but in the moment the fears were very real.  We sat contemplating the future full of worry, and the joys of Christmas Eve seemed to drift somewhere far away.

Following our family’s Christmas celebrations, I returned to the clinic to turn in my equipment and pick up my final check.  My employer and I parted as best we could, and then I ‘headed down the road’ to somewhere I did not know.

One morning as I sat at home updating my résumé, the phone rang.  I stopped working and answered the phone.  The person calling was Bill Booth.  He said, “I was wondering if you would bleed some pigs for some of the kids in the local 4H and FFA program.”  Shocked that he had not heard the news, I politely informed Bill that I no longer worked for the veterinary clinic and gave him the number to get a hold my previous employer.  I am not sure if the next words out of Bill’s mouth were said simply because he felt sorry for me or out of compassion, but they are words that I will never forget.  “I did not ask another veterinarian to bleed the pigs.  I ask if you would.”  I was grateful at the thought of making a little money since I had none coming in, but the impact of his call was of greater value to me.  At that moment in my career, those words reassured me of my abilities and worth.  Someone still believed that I was capable.  Someone still believed that I had what it took to be a veterinarian. 

Over the course of my almost 30 years in veterinary medicine, I have worked for many clients, and I have bled hundreds of pigs.  None were as memorable or as important to me as the ones I did that day so early in my career.  Bill’s willingness to reach out and ask me to care for his animals re-instilled in me the confidence that had been wounded and shaken.  I am forever grateful for the kindness that he showed me.

Bill passed away a few years ago.  Upon his death, I relayed to his family how much him giving me that pig bleeding job had meant to me as a young struggling veterinarian.  I told them that one of my biggest regrets was that I never properly thanked him for extending such kindness to me when I needed it the most.  Over the years, I have had many wonderful clients that have touched my life and given me the opportunity to make a living doing what I love.  You, too, have stories like mine.  Stories of a time when someone reached out in kindness to pick you up when you were down.  My hope for you is that this holiday season you would take the time to thank those special people in your life and as well be an encouragement to someone in need.

From my family to yours, may you have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Read more in the December issue of Oklahoma Farm & Ranch.