The doctors called it “failure to thrive.”
What that meant for little Benji is he wasn’t putting on any weight. He was eating well and doing all the things a newborn is supposed to do. He seemed to be in good health, generally. He had even grown a couple of inches in length. But when they weighed him at the clinic a couple of weeks ago, he weighed less than he did when he was born in early December.
He was surviving. But he wasn't thriving.
And that, as far as Benji’s doctor was concerned, was unacceptable. So he had Benji’s parents admit him into the nearby pediatric hospital, where he began a careful, thorough process of checking the baby out for, well, everything. The poor little guy was poked and probed and prodded and pricked while the medical staff scratched ailments — from the scary to the not-so-scary — off the list of possibilities.
Of course, Benji’s parents were relieved every time a test for one of those really frightening diseases came back with negative results. But their gratitude was offset by the doctor’s concern over another ounce or two of weight loss.
“What’s wrong with our little guy?” Benji’s mother would ask her husband. “He doesn’t have many more ounces to lose.”
Thankfully, neither they nor the doctors — nor, for that matter, little Benji — gave up. After more than a week in the hospital and a number of different theories and tests, the doctors have decided Benji has a really high metabolism. He burns quickly through the calories he consumes, so he needs to consume more of them than most babies — 50 percent more, in fact. Which is why the doctors have him — and his poor, exhausted mommy — on a regimen of eating every two hours, with a special supplement to add calories and, hopefully, weight.
And so far, it’s working. Slowly but surely, Benji is putting on weight. For the first time in his short life, he’s really starting to thrive.
As opposed to just surviving.
It makes me wonder how often I settle for surviving when I believe we were all born to thrive. I’m not talking about weight here — truth be told, I’m way past thriving in that regard. But I look at how often I find myself just trying to survive another day at work rather than aggressively seeking ways to fully thrive on behalf of my employer. Or how often I’m in social situations where I just want to get through it rather than extend myself to make the most of it.
Oh, and there’s a reason why my yard has never been honored as “Yard of the Month” by our community council: me. I do enough to make it survive, but not enough to make it thrive.
“Surviving is important,” said the late, great poet Maya Angelou. “Thriving is elegant.”
That is especially true of our most precious relationships, which cry out for thriving elegance. So why is it that as a father and grandfather I tend to settle for what’s comfortable and easy for me, when my family really deserves a father and grandfather who will smash through his personal comfort zone and thrive as Beast Mode Dad?
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive,” Angelou wrote, “and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style.”
Inspired by Benji and his ongoing effort to thrive, I’m going to make that my mission in life, too. And I invite you to join me. Let’s not settle for survival when we can really, truly thrive.
Passionately, compassionately, with humor and style.
We’ll call it Benji Mode.
To read more by Joseph B. Walker, visit josephbwalker.com. Twitter: JoeWalkerSr