There was a delay at radiation today due to the doctor being in surgery, so I had time to observe the people around me…surreptitiously, of course! Perhaps it is the time of day I am there, perhaps it is me lying to myself, but all but one looks older than me, (they are all probably saying the same thing to each other!) Many have had chemotherapy first – the women wear turbans or their hair is an inch or so long. They chat and laugh like old friends and for the long haulers, I guess they are.
One lady was joyous today because it was her last day. When she left the radiation room, everyone back there clapped, including me. The technicians have a bell hanging on the wall between two rooms for each of us to ring on our last day. She was all smiles as she rang it and said good-bye, yet stopped to make note of the fact that she hadn’t seen me in there before. 😉 When I told her it was only my 5th day, she smiled sadly and tenderly, then told me to ‘hang in there’.
There was something else I noticed today in the waiting room – people smile easily and knowingly at each other. While we are all from different walks of life, at different stages in life, with different educational and socio-economic levels, we are all on the same journey. We may have cancer in different parts of our bodies, but those mutinous cells are there, or have been there recently, nevertheless, and we each have an idea of at least a part of what the other is experiencing. We don’t know anything else about the other, but that’s pretty daggone bonding.
I was wondering as I was leaving the hospital and making my way to work – why aren’t Christians more like the folks in the waiting room? Why don’t we smile easily at each other rather than pretend we don’t see each other or worse, frown? Why don’t we look knowingly and tenderly at each other instead of so often looking critically or judgmentally? After all, we are all on the same journey with the same enemy shooting arrows at us. We all have that same enemy accusing us before the Father day and night, not to mention in our heads day and night! Wouldn’t this journey be a bit easier if we encouraged one another and cheered each other on like the cancer patients do?
The word compassion keeps bubbling to the surface of my mind. I am reminded of Henri Nouwen’s book entitled by the same word, Compassion. He wrote:
When we take a critical look at ourselves, we have to recognize that competition, not compassion, is our main motivation in life. We find ourselves deeply immersed in all sorts of competition. Our whole sense of self is dependent upon the way we compare ourselves with others and upon the differences we can identify…It is by our differences, distinctions that we are recognized, honored, rejected, or despised. Whether we are more or less intelligent, practical, strong, fast, handy, or handsome depends upon those with whom we are compared or those with whom we compete. It is upon these positive or negative distinctions that much of our self-esteem depends…Thus, we define ourselves in ways that require us to maintain distance from one another. We are very protective of our “trophies.” After all, who are we if we cannot proudly point to something special that sets us apart from others? (p. 19)
Compassion is derived from two Latin words meaning “to suffer with.” Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish…when we look at compassion this way, it becomes clear that something more is involved than general kindness or tenderheartedness.
Despite their many differences, cancer patients and cancer survivors are united by the disease and their fight to conquer it. As a result, the differences that might separate them in other aspects of life, make no difference whatsoever.
Which brings me to this – I’m wondering how it is that the children of God seem to have so many walls separating us…do we, too, need to define ourselves by “trophies,” thus protecting our distance from each other? I know that I can be good at keeping an emotional distance to protect myself; it’s nothing of which to be proud.
Apart from Christ, God-With-Us, I realize that we aren’t capable of the compassion that Nouwen wrote about. It simply doesn’t come naturally. Let’s face it, just yesterday I flat-lined on the compassion scale at the doctor’s office! Yet, by God’s grace, I cried out to Him, repented, was restored, and was free to offer compassion to others yesterday and this morning.
He’s a good, good Father. I am grateful for His mercy and compassion toward me.