I have been thinking a lot about one of my favorite stories. It’s over 2,000 years old and is as relevant today as even before. It’s called the Parable of the Chinese Farmer. Here’s how it goes:
There once was a poor farmer who worked the soil with his son and their horse, and one day their horse ran away. The farmer’s neighbor came over and said “This is terrible! What an awful thing!”
The farmer replied “Maybe so… and maybe not.”
Two days later, the horse returned but not alone. It brought a second horse with it. The neighbor said “This is wonderful! What great luck!” Again, the farmer replied, “Maybe so… and maybe not.”
A few weeks later the farmer’s son fell off of the new horse and badly broke his leg. The neighbor again stopped by to say “How horrible! Surely you have been cursed,” and again the farmer replied, “Maybe so… and maybe not.”
Shortly thereafter, all the young men in the village were drafted to go and help fight off an invading army. Many of them died, but the farmer’s son was spared from the draft because of his broken leg. The neighbor told the farmer how lucky he was.
“Maybe so… and maybe not.”
The current global pandemic is stressful and scary for all of us. No one would say that our current situation is “good.” However, as I listen to the anxieties of my colleagues, especially new graduates from veterinary school who are worried about the state of the profession they are graduating into, I can’t help but think of the farmer.
There is almost certainly some sort of a recession coming, and many of us are working shortened hours, or have been laid off. Veterinary medicine will have to adapt how it serves pet owners, treats patients, and charges for healthcare. Some of us may lose loved ones or become infected ourselves. The immediate situation appears dark.
However, the words and perspective of the farmer shouldn’t be forgotten. Over the long term, what if COVID-19 makes us more efficient? It has already pushed us forward a decade in our use of digital communication with pet owners, and practices all over the world are refining their protocols and workflow to serve clients more quickly with smaller numbers of staff. Shifting our business model to focus more on selling our time and knowledge (as we do when we utilize telemedicine) as opposed to relying on product sales could be the best thing to happen to veterinary medicine in decades.
Perhaps the changes to our society will allow opportunities for our practices to grow in ways we have never imagined. The entrepreneurs among us will find new opportunities to expand the reach of our profession and to serve the new needs of pet owners. Maybe we will all find a better perspective on the uncertainty of life and a new comfort level with the reality that many things are simply out of our control. Maybe we will remember that our best-laid plans may never materialize through no fault of our own, and that’s just the way of the world. Maybe we will come together as a profession and a society to take better care of each other. Maybe everything will be just fine. Maybe we will look back at this time in our lives and think “I’m grateful COVID forced me to do things professionally and personally that I was afraid to do and never would have done otherwise.
Maybe so… and maybe not.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.