(*This Title Message Art Work was created by Kristen Delap…an artist who specializes in “Lettering, Inscriptions, Musings, and Momentos”- Check out her blog on kdelap.com- She recently wrote a wonderful blog on patience…I needed to practice a lot of it this past week while snowed in….a rarity in Charleston, SC)
The other day Rachael Ray had Tom Brokaw on as a guest on her show…promoting his book and telling his story of how he is coping with a rare form of cancer called: Multiple myeloma – it is a cancer of the antibody-producing cells in the bone marrow, which are part of the body’s immune system. (Treatable, but not curable.)
It was obvious when he walked across the stage set and sat down that he was walking stiffly, as if in pain, and he gingerly took his time sitting down. As Rachael asked about his health….he explained that because blood cells form in the bone marrow…this type of cancer is hard on the skeletal system producing excruciating compression fractures in the spine. .
On the way to the studio earlier that morning he told the audience that he was feeling somewhat frustrated at his own slow, awkward gait until he saw a homeless veteran with no legs sitting in a wheelchair with a cup in his hand.
Then he said a wave of regret washed over him for feeling sorry for himself when this man would never walk again…he dropped money into his cup and wished the man a good day which the veteran, in good cheer, responded back accordingly.
Haven’t we all experienced this same situation while recovering from a pity party? It doesn’t matter whether it is a health problem, an emotional problem, or even a financial problem…there is always some one, actually thousands of people, who have experienced so much worse that our little problem would appear ant-like to them.
No matter how serious our problems might strike us…the vast majority of Americans can still return to a home, loved ones, pets, warmth or coolness, food in the frig, and a comfortable bed to sleep in.
Some people, in this world, have never and probably will never experience a home, plenty of food, and a comfortable bed to lie on. No matter what happened during their day…if these people experienced lodging, food, and bedding…it would still be the the best day of their life.
Tom Brokaw thought he was at the apex of his life….semi-retired (choosing only certain specials to do occasionally) having more free time to spend with his wife of 51 years and his children/grandchildren. Like Jefferson…he finally had plenty of time to read and write.
Then in 2013 he started suffering back pain which only increased in intensity over time. It was the Mayo Clinic where his diagnosis was revealed…a detour was looming ahead in his personal journey.
Friends had always kidded him that he was destined to be a particularly lucky bright star. The diagnosis showed him (he admitted wryly) that his bright light had a dimmer on it.
For the past couple of years his cancer has been in a type of remission giving him time for the things he loves best…writing and playing with his grandchildren. He notes, in his memoir of hope however, that from the time of his diagnosis he knew intuitively that no matter what state the cancer was in…nothing would ever be the same…that his old life of ‘false security’ was gone.
It was this part of the book that I could really relate to…my personal and spiritual life was so elevated with my diagnosis of “little c” that going through this uncertain stage of keeping my cancer at bay…brings about a personal dilemma for me.
I don’t want to return to the person I was before my diagnosis…the “Pre-Cancer Becky” of old. There was nothing particularly wrong with me except my eyes weren’t open to all the possibilities God had in store for me.
Now as one of millions of people living with cancer…my appreciation for life is God-fold.. with Him in the center of my life…not pushed to the perimeters like before my diagnosis.
Everything looks fresher now (like my freshly painted trim, doors, and windows) along with my perception and gratitude for everything and everyone I come across along my life journey…It all excites me tremendously.
I keep seeing more connections than ever before and the world has become my playground of curiosity. I understand now that taking life for granted is one of the worse things we can do…because this attitude stymies the unknown frontiers of amazing experiences just waiting to dazzle us and mystify our imagination.
Mrs. Persons, Oh fourth grade teacher of mine, you were wrong when you told me there were no more frontiers left to explore…I am here to tell you that I have lived in the frontier of cancer for seven years now and it has been the most rewarding time of my life!
So whenever we want to feel sorry for ourselves…pause and look around and then go to your dictionary and see how one preposition can change the way we see others.
Sympathy is literally ‘feeling with’ – compassion for/ or commiseration with another person.
Empathy, by contrast, is literally ‘feeling into’ – the ability to project one’s personality into another person and more fully understand that person.
Just like the aim of Tom Brokaw’s latest book …helping others facing serious diseases through the sharing of his own thoughts and stories while traveling through his personal frontier….we, too, should learn to take the extra step …going from ‘feeling with‘ to ‘feeling into’ those following behind us with kindred problems.
So until tomorrow…Let us always keep one hand free to reach behind to pull another up…someone whose entire life is our one “bad” day.
“Today is my favorite day” Winnie the Pooh
*Here is a sneak peek of the progress on the house…a column was added to the back porch because the whole trim side under the roof was bowed…now covered in crisp white paint…it is holding up the new roof quite proudly…the doors (on the front) are a rich deep caramel color to pick up the assortment of browns in the brick…the only thing left to do is install the new vinyl windows and that begins today!!!…So much excitement!