Don’t get me wrong I appreciate random acts of kindness. Someone holding the door open, someone saying “after you”, someone not trying to take the parking spce I was waiting for, a neighbor moving my garbage cans out of the streeet. I think at an earlier time in history it would have been called common courtesy or manners. Now we think of them as random acts of kindness. My birthday was two weeks ago and I appreciated the birthday cards, Facebook messages, and gifts that I received. But there were two intentional acts of kindness that were done for me that really touched my heart. The first was a friend from church made dinner for me for the entire week. Seven little containers full of delicious food with reheating instructions. It was so kind and took some planning and took her time. She is a mom of two young children. Her gift was a sacrifice of her time and resources. The second gift was an invitation to join a family for dinner on Valentine’s Day. The husband was cooking dinner for his wife and son and called to see if I would like to join them. Another intentional act of kindness that meant so much to me. I think random acts of kindness are great but I want to be intentional in my acts of kindness to others. Thank you to those who have intentionally or randomly blessed me with your acts of kindness. Your example spurs me on to be a giver as well as a receiver.
Over the past few months the kids at church have asked me “Miss Ann, do you have Angry Birds on your iPhone?”. My answer was “no”. They would graciously volunteer to “get it for me”. I would respond “no thanks”. No Angry Birds on my phone meant no need to hand my phone to a child begging to use it. Well, don’t tell any of the kids from church but today I got Angry Birds. I was at the pottery painting place with my 2 nieces and needless to say the 4-year-old was finished painting before the 8-year-old and in a move to keep the little one occupied I got Angry Birds. There was a moment I thought I will probably regret this easy fix to occupying a 4-year-old. And the next moment I thought “oh no what have I done the kids at church probably just got some kind of world wide bulletin – Miss Ann has Angry Birds.” And just in case you were wondering the 4-year-old asked me if I had Angry Birds on my phone and I said no but I can get it for you. I must be getting soft in my old age or there is a difference when it is your niece – the child of your baby sister. So how do you play Angry Birds 🙂
Last night I finished reading A Million Ways to Die, The Only Way to Live by Rick James. I am not really sure how I came to hear about this book. I think someone or more than one someone mentioned it on Facebook. But no matter how I came to read it, it was thought-provoking. I didn’t really “get” the book in the beginning. I can’t say that I have never stopped reading a book because I didn’t get it but I usually “keep on, keeping on” so I kept reading. Actually I multitask when it comes to books – I read more than one book at a time. The pile of books may include one fiction book but it won’t include two fiction books – that would be too confusing. I am always pleased when the thoughts in one book appear in another book from the current pile. Of course when I start to tell a friend about new thought I am not really sure where the thought came from. That is a hazard of reading more than one book at a time but I can live with that. A thought that I am still processing: “If, for example, you’ve experienced more trails than anyone you know and it doesn’t seem fair–well, it’s not fair. You’ve been given twice as much fuel, which can be transformed into twice as much life. Perhaps Satan has harassed you to a degree far exceeding the experience of others. Well, that’s a calculated risk on his part. If you don’t give out or give in, he’s actually provided you with excess fuel that can be processed by faith and transformed into life. If Satan sends you a bomb and it doesn’t explode(that is, if you don’t give up), he’s actually given you a weapon.” I am still turning than around in my head. Another tidbit, which is more than a tidbit because it is a lot to chew on: “when we die to self and embrace our trails, unjust suffering, and pain, we do so with the anticipation of how God will resurrect and transform things into life.”
Current pile of books: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick – reading with my niece, Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr – just finished and I am going to reread, The History of Love by Nicole Krauss- for book club. Bonhoeffer, his biography has been on the pile a long time. It is good but it is a slow read. Recently finished: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston – would highly recommend. Sanctuary of the Soul by Richard Foster- would also recommend.
I have noticed that I take less with me when I travel than I did in the past. I try to stay within one or two color schemes so I don’t need too many pairs of shoes. I don’t carry as many books because I have a nook. I count on where I am going or who I am traveling with to have some of the toiletries and the hairdryer. Of course that assumption has backfired in the past and lead to purchasing shower wash on Vancouver Island for more than I would ever spend in the USA. Traveling with less has allowed me to feel freer since I am not loaded down with too much stuff. I am not worried about where is this or that or can I carry it all. I am actually trying to travel through each day with less stuff. Living one day at a time – enjoying the now. Being in the moment and with the person I am with – really listening and enjoying their presence. Keeping it simple. Decluttering is a good thing whether it is your suitcase, closet, kitchen drawers or life. Of course I have noticed when I travel I have to remember to pack the “chargers” or that iPhone and nook will be useless in a day or two. Kind of like me – I need to stay charged 🙂
Recently I have said or written those words to two people who I care about very deeply. You may wonder what occasion would cause me to say “It sucks and isn’t fun but you can do it”. The occasion would be the announcement that they have cancer. I have been there, done that. And it isn’t fun but it can be done. I remember a nurse saying to me “well now you won’t have to worry about getting cancer because you have it”. Really I never worried about it, no one in my family has had cancer so it wasn’t something that was on my radar. One of the hardest things about having cancer was telling people that I had cancer. Actually I made my sister tell my mom. I knew I couldn’t tell her. In the beginning I told very few people because until I had a definite diagnosis I didn’t want everyone worrying. It was December 2007 and just before Christmas I had a diagnosis of breast cancer. I didn’t tell my daughters until they were home for Christmas. I wanted to tell them face to face and when we were all together. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I remember that my youngest daughter and her boyfriend went to pick up my eldest daughter and her husband at Newark Airport. And while they were gone I prayed and paced trying to find the right words. Searching the Bible for the perfect verse, the perfect words but the reality is there is no easy way to say it, no way to ease it into the conversation. So I trusted that God would give me the strength and the words. I remember that when everyone arrived there were hugs and small talk and cups of tea. We were all setting at the kitchen table and finally I knew I had to tell them something that I never thought I would tell them. I think I said “I have to tell you some bad news”. I remember my eldest daughter reaching for her husband’s hand and I remember not making eye contact with my youngest daughter. And then I just said it – no sugar-coating or easing into it, I just said I have breast cancer. During my breast cancer journey I had a calendar that I wrote “good” day or “bad” day on. During that journey of 8 chemo treatments over 16 weeks I only wrote “really bad day” once. It is a journey that forces you to become the CEO of your own healthcare. Through my journey I learned that medicine is not science it is art. If you or someone you love is on that journey ask lots of questions. Do not assume anything. Take control of what you can control. Cut your hair short before it falls out. Buy new makeup. Buy a new toothbrush. Purchase Biotene toothpaste and mouthwash to protect your teeth. Sleep on a satin pillowcase and wear a sleep cap. Let people help you. Do one day at a time and sometimes do 10 minutes at a time and then do the next 10 minutes. Remember no one comes with an expiration date stamped on their foot. No one can tell you how long you have to live. Pray – I believe it helps but bottom line it can’t hurt. Don’t listen to other people’s stories about their cousin’s boss’s mother. Talk to people who have had what you have. Or talk to their family members. The greatest gift I received as I started my journey was speaking to my friend’s brother whose wife had died of breast cancer – it was a blessing because he had been there, done that. He shared wonderful tidbits and thoughts with me. And as we ended our conversation he gave me a hug and told me I could do this. And on a Thursday morning in December of 2008 as the sun was just coming up, there was a rainbow across the sky. At first I didn’t realize it was a rainbow. It seemed to be random streaks of color. And then I could see a perfectly arched rainbow going across the sky as I drove to my last radiation treatment. A rainbow a sign of hope and promise. The journey through treatment “sucks and it isn’t fun but you can do it”
One of my volunteer positions is gallery guide for the Tribute Center. I am also a docent for the Tribute Center which involves leading walking tours of the National September 11 Memorial in New York. As a gallery guide I have the privilege of speaking to school groups that visit the center. I believe strongly “in telling the next generation”. I love every opportunity to speak with young people. Telling the story of September 11 to children and teens can be “tricky”. Those children and teens who are now in fifth to 12 grade don’t really have their own memories of that day. How could they? The teens who graduate from High School this year were only 7 years old in 2001. The current fifth grade class were babies. That is part of the reason the Tribute Center is so passion about telling the stories. We lived it but after 10 years it can become a dot on the timeline of history unless educators teach their students. I have had students make me smile as they tell me what they know about 9/11. Note: I always say September 11 not 9/11. Anyway. I had a fourth grader tell me “there were tourists who hijacked 6 planes”. Close they were terrorists – we want to be tourist but we don’t want to be terrorists and there were 4 planes. The one thing I try to avoid mentioning is that people jumped from the buildings. But some child always asked “did people really jump” and I try to discuss that in an age appropriate way. It is an amazing experience speaking to the children and teens. And I love it. But this past week for the first time I had a group that had no clue where they were. I guess the teachers didn’t inform them of where they were going or they didn’t listen. I don’t know but there was a moment when I realized the being young and clueless does not give you a licence to disrespect. So I sucker punched them. I started with the ” Okay, We are just going for it. My husband was one of the 343 firefighters that was killed on September 11 and my daughters were your age then. And Tracy her 24-year-old son was murdered when terrorist flew commercial jetliners into buildings right across the street from here. And this didn’t happen in 1776, 1820, 1860 or 19 whatever it happened in 2001 and you were alive then and you need to know and understand this because someday your children are going to ask you what happen here . Okay, now breathe.” I can’t say I felt bad for sucker punching them. I can say that it was the moment that I truly understood that the stories of September 11 are that important and they have to be told.
I had to take my mum for her yearly neurologist appointment last week. The office requests that you arrive 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment. I appreciate that it is almost impossible to keep a doctor’s office running on time. If I want the doctor to spend time with me, I need to realize that he/she will also be spending time with the other patients and the schedule will not be running perfectly. All that said to say I wasn’t surprised that we were going to have to wait. I was surprised at how rude the receptionist was to an elderly patient who arrived late. The receptionist informed her that she was 5 minutes late and that she had been told to arrive 15 minutes early. Really!!! The receptionist knew that the doctor had not been waiting for this patient to arrive he was running late. I glanced at my watch and knew he was running at least 15 minutes late because my mum hadn’t gone in yet. Did I mention that all of this was loud enough for the entire office/waiting room to hear? I was about ready to comment when the nurse called my mum’s name – 21 minutes after the scheduled appointment and 36 minutes after we had arrived. Wow!! I really hope that elderly patient arriving 5 minutes late didn’t throw the whole office off of its written in stone schedule. Maybe cutting people a little slack would be a good idea especially when the doctor is running late.