Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Kindness of Strangers

Recently, my seniors read/watched the Tennessee Williams classic play, A Streetcar Named Desire. I love this play for many reasons, but crazy Blanche DuBois, the main character, is a big reason. Even while declining into insanity, Blanche has some profound words of wisdom.

Blanche DuBois (Vivian Leigh) is escorted to the asylum by the doctor.
This week, the truth in Blanche's last line in the play struck me. She says to the doctor who is escorting her to the asylum, "I've always depended on the kindness of strangers."

I thought about how much I depend on the kindness of strangers. The selfless act can be something small like a driver letting me into the flow of traffic or a gentleman holding the door while I enter a store. It can also be something more personal like a person reaching out to offer prayers or prepare a dinner in my time of need or a nurse asking if I’m ok even though I’m not the patient.

It’s easy to get caught up in ourselves, in our routine, in our wants. Whenever I think I’ve got everything in control and don’t really need help from others, something happens to show me how wrong I am. That’s when I’m shown kindness that humbles me. That’s when I am reminded once again that I should to be that kind, too.

If we all followed the Golden Rule, the results would be awesome. Everyone would be helpful, caring, unselfish and kind. We would put others’ needs before our own because we truly want to show kindness and be helpful. It’s all about paying it forward, not because it makes us feel better but because it makes someone else feel better.

The goal is to be conscious of others and not just of ourselves. Yes, even a small act goes a long way to help someone who is struggling. Mother Teresa said, “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”

Kindness matters. Show it.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Can a Patient have Patience?

I once heard a preacher say, "Don't pray for patience because the Lord will send plenty of events to test you in your quest to have it." 

Made sense to me.

This week, I prayed a lot for pleasant events and good outcomes, for doctors and nurses, for my husband and my family, but I remembered not to pray for patience. I had enough troubles going on this week and I didn't want any additional ones.

My husband spent a few days in the hospital, and there is nothing that can make you wait more than modern medicine and its practitioners. 

For example, a test scheduled at 10:30 a.m. took place at 1:30 p.m. Since the patient had nothing to eat since midnight, he looked forward to the rubbery catfish and cold grits he would receive when he returned to his room. 

However, no deliciousness arrived because the cafeteria wouldn't even answer the phone when the nurse called to order the plate. When she did get through, she was told that the cafeteria closes between 1:00 and 3:00 p.m. 

Another example is the doctor who said she would come by at 9:00 a.m. to answer questions and prescribe medication. She actually showed up six hours later. It was hard for the patient, my husband, to remain pleasant in dealing with her.

I could go on and on with examples of inept hospital workers and their stories, but I think you see my point. I want to say, too, that there are some really dedicated medical staff who do their best for their patient. I don't mean to bash the entire industry, but that is what a hospital has become today -- a money-making business.

When I consider patience, I always think about that saying, "the patience of Job." To remind you of the Biblical story, God takes away his blessing of Job, a very prosperous and Godly man, to prove to Satan that Job would remain true to God. Job, even after losing his family, his wealth and his health, never curses God or blames Him for the tragedies. Because Job is patient, he is then rewarded with God's grace, having seven more sons and three daughters and living 140 more years.

The lesson is to just wait. Have faith. Don't cast blame. Grace will come, not by my time clock maybe, but it will come. 

I get it. I understand what I'm supposed to learn from the story of Job, so I don't curse or blame God when I'm sent troubles. I look for the lesson I'm supposed to learn from it. 

This week, what I learned was not pleasant and will require much patience on my part in the future. It will also require me to be involved with medical caregivers more than I want. 

I'll try to be patient, understanding and kind, but it's going to be tough. I'll pray for healing, for kindness, for dedicated caregivers, but not for patience. I'd appreciate your prayers, too.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Virtual Valentine's Day!

According to Money magazine, Americans spend $18.9 billion on Valentine’s Day. Most of that is spent on humans, but some animal lovers spend $700 million on their pets on February 14.


When you look at that total and realize what good that money could do to help others, I just shake my head.

I've never been a big Valentine's Day person. When I was in elementary school, the day was fun because we all traded the cards we made in class. They were made with construction paper, rubber-cement glue, crayons and paper doilies. The teacher made sure that every kid got a card so that no one was left out. We all felt the love.

Teenage years weren't so much fun on Feb. 14. I didn't have a boyfriend, so I didn't get flowers or candy or cards. Class time wasn’t wasted on crafts. Maybe that’s when my cynicism of this “day of love” began.

When I got married, my then-husband didn't do much for Valentine's Day. He just wasn't the type to show affection through flowers. At least that's what I thought. Then, on Valentine’s Day toward the end of the marriage, he had the florist deliver artificial flowers in a Mickey Mouse vase to me at work. Just one reason he's not around anymore.

My present husband is totally a Valentine's Day guy. He always puts a great amount of thought into the day. The first year we dated, he sent me a dozen beautiful roses, a box of candy and a stuffed animal. I've gotten flowers every year since then. Just one more reason he's still around.

I love getting real flowers, but I remember what it was like to be the one not getting anything. I was one of the excluded people, and I know how deflating it feels. My heart goes out to those people, especially teenagers and young adults, who feel like they are not beautiful, popular or nice enough to be loved by someone.

I taught at one school that was the worst when it came to Valentine's Day because the administration allowed floral deliveries. The local florists made a killing on that day. The office staff would spend the last ten minutes of each class period calling names of girls to come to the office to get their flowers. Not much education happened on Valentine’s Day at that school. Girls sat waiting all day for their names to be called to come collect their token of love. Sadly, many girls had no special gift to carry home at the end of school.

This week, a suggested blog topic was “To whom would you send a virtual Valentine’s Day card?” A virtual card, although somewhat cold and impersonal, is an inexpensive way to share the love. As we get more and more sucked into that virtual realm, I visualize having a file on your desktop for saving such items just like you would save the tangible card in your underwear drawer (drawers’ drawer).

Some of the people I think need a Valentine’s Day card are

1.  Brian Williams – I miss Brian on NBC Nightly News; however, I’m sure I don’t miss him as much as the person who watched him every night to chart the color/pattern of the tie he wore. I’m sending a card to both.

2.  Valimir Putin – This Russian leader just seems like he needs some hugs. He even looks mean in his pictures, so maybe a virtual card will melt his cold heart a little, and he will leave Ukraine alone.

3.  Veterans, especially the Korean and Vietnam War veterans – These people, although mostly unappreciated, deserve much more than a small token.

4.  All the teenage girls and boys who feel like they don’t matter because they don't get a real card or flower. Your time is coming, and until then, love yourself. Wait until Feb. 15 and buy yourself lots of candy!

I could think of many more to whom I’d send these free cards, but I can save time and put it as my status on Facebook or use fewer than 140 characters to tweet it. So on this extremely commercial holiday from the old, cynical me -- Happy Valentine’s Day.

Friday, February 6, 2015

A Simple Test Can Save Your Life

Recently, I had a colonoscopy. I know -- gross! Actually, it was my third colonoscopy. The American Cancer Society recommends getting one every five years beginning at age 50. I started at 46 because I'm at a higher risk.  My dad and his mom both had colorectal cancer.

If you have ever had a colonoscopy, you know that the actual procedure is anticlimactic to the preparation for it. The day before, you have to drink this laxative mix, eat nothing, drink clear liquids and stay really close to the bathroom. 

For the actual procedure, you are asleep so you really don't know what's going on, which is ok with me. When you wake up, you have to expel all of the gas the doctor blew into your colon so he could examine it with his snake-like camera. That's really embarrassing, especially if a family member or friend is sitting with you. The recovery room is a really loud place.

I don't like taking any of these tests that detect cancer -- colonoscopy, mammogram, PAP test, etc. The test itself isn't so bad usually, but the worry afterward is unnerving. Most often, a week or so after the test, after I have moved on and life has removed it from my memory, the mailman delivers that letter from the doctor stating the test results. I hate that letter. I hate the little knot in my stomach when I see the return address because I know that what's written on that doctor’s stationary inside that envelope could totally throw my life into turmoil. That letter could mean the end of life as I know it. 
I’ve been lucky so far, but many of my friends and family haven’t. Cancer has taken many of them, well before they should have died.

I’ve never understood why people won’t take these tests. Sometimes it’s because they would rather not know if something is wrong.  I have a friend who didn’t get a mammogram for years. Once, she had one that showed a small, suspicious spot. She had to have a biopsy which showed she was ok; however, she was such a wreck after the whole ordeal, she wouldn’t have a mammogram for several years.

Early detection is the key for all types of cancers, especially colorectal cancer. If it’s found and treated early, the 5-year survival rate is about 90%. But because many people are not getting tested, only about 4 out of 10 people are diagnosed at this early stage when treatment is most likely to be successful. For those 140,000 Americans diagnosed with colorectal cancer yearly, more than 50,000 die from it.

Yes, having a colonoscopy is unpleasant, but having to endure months/years of chemotherapy, surgery, or the ostomy bag should encourage everyone to have the test. Personally, I'd rather suffer through the prep, the test and that unsettling letter than suffer through the alternative -- cancer.

February 4th is World Cancer Day, the day to recognize and remember those who have cancer, who survived it or who died from it.

On February 4, I thought about all the people that I know who have died from cancer. I miss you Daddy, Nana, Aunt Jane, Aunt Nell, Uncle Bub, Amy, Debbie, Kathy, Sharon, Marsha, Steve, Billy …