Eric Paul Justin, MD, MPH, MBA | 23 April 2020

Growing up in Indiana I quickly learned basketball was everything. I shot baskets endlessly in rain, snow, and Summer’s heat and humidity. Dreams of being ‘great’ drove me. Improving and being chosen earlier than my buddies in pickup games was a reward. Early on one affable, quiet man had more influence on me than I realized.

He was called “Ish” at the local Boys Club. He quickly spotted me as a new kid. I was hungry for one thing…better basketball skills. He knew that. Every Saturday morning Ish guided us through drills and exercises. At times he would allow games. Slowly those became competitive. But one thing never changed.

Ish was all about the fundamentals. ‘Fancy’ was forbidden. Fundamentals were everything. I have never forgotten Mr. Ish (Ishmael) Gurman. His simple message has never left me. Fundamentals still matter. I am thankful he taught me that too. As we think about COVID-19 and all the changes imposed on each of us and our society, please keep in mind, the fundamentals still matter.

What do I mean? Please look above at the ‘cartoon’ of the iceberg floating in water. The medical doctor who created the iceberg image was a founder of what is now called ‘wellness.’ It was the 1970s and “wellness” was brand new. You will notice the ‘tip’ of the iceberg labelled “state of health.” Its position above the water line indicates that one’s state of health is the visible part of our current level of wellness. You could say it is how well and healthy we appear to be.

Below the water line are three more layers. These layers are ‘the engine’ which creates the health and wellness seen at the ‘tip’ of the iceberg. In weeks to come we will focus on the two middle layers. For now please look at the bottom layer…”spiritual/being/meaning realm”. Note that it is the FOUNDATION layer, the base. It is a ‘basis upon which something stands or is supported’ (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). Simply put…it is fundamental.

Our spiritual selves are fundamental to our well being: all day and every day. We must maintain and promote that bedrock of our lives. To be clear, that foundation is based on God’s love for us. You might also say it ‘houses’ our faith in God and thus love and forgiveness in our relations with others.

When we were children many others helped us understand and honor that foundation. All those who showed us the fundamentals and taught us how to use them honored their own faith by their sharing and teaching. Like Mr. Ish Gurman they all taught us much more than how to pass a ball or how to be a team player. They passed on a love for life, their faith and a deeply rooted spirit for the simplest joys of life. The fundamentals.

Please humor me and take a few moments for a small exercise. Reflect on your life. Who were those people who taught you the fundamentals? Who were the Ish Gurmans in your life? Pick one. Imagine that person as you were when younger. Remember all that they did for you and others. And honor their memory and what they taught you.

Think about the simple beauty of those teachings, their gifts to you, and how they have been key in shaping you and guiding you throughout life. The fundamentals matter indeed. Fundamentals provide each of us with a pathway through the life that we have been given. And they cement our faith as a powerful presence in our lives every day…forever.

Thank you for doing that. Please remember to:

  • practice social distancing (six feet or more from people outside your home)
  • wash your hands or use hand sanitizer often
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth
  • cover your nose and mouth when you cough and/or sneeze
  • avoid those who are sick (cough, sneezing, etc.)
  • wear a face mask when going out of your home to do errands
  • stay home when you are sick
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