Yesterday, while on the phone with my eldest daughter, she stopped the conversation for a moment to thank a man as he walked past her. “Thank you for what you did,” I heard her tell the stranger. “You really made a difference.”
Earlier in the day, as she was leaving the hospital where her fiance has been for the past week, she started crying in the elevator. A man in the elevator followed her out of the hospital and walked behind her. After a few moments, he called out to her and asked, “Are you okay? Is there anything I can do?”
That question from a stranger helped her feel better. Less disconnected. Less alone.
JM, her fiance, had surgery a week ago and it is not all going according to plan. Complications, set-backs have all impacted his smooth recovery. That morning, another set-back had caused concern for both her and JM. “This is not uncommon,” the medical team supporting him tells them, but that doesn’t ease their concern, and fear.
Fear is not a good companion, especially in times of medical unease. It causes the mind to wander into dark and dim corridors. It blocks the light.
For Alexis, my daughter, fear is the unbidden companion stalking her peace of mind and confidence in the medical system. “Nurses are so busy, mom,” she said to me on the phone after I commented that they were doing everything they can to help JM. “What if they’re not able to do everything they can because they’re too busy?”
My heart is heavy. It is not easy to go through any medical situation. Your fate is in the hands of strangers; of those you must trust to be doing their best, to know what is the best thing to do and to be putting your best interests at the forefront of every action they take.
It is not easy feeling helpless and for my daughter and her fiance, it is compounded by the uncertainty of his progress in recovery.
For my daughter, it is also compounded by the love she feels for this man, and her desire to ease his pain, to know that he will be alright and to help him with more than just her loving presence and calming words.
Sometimes, all we can bring is our loving presence and calming words. Sometimes, there is no other action we can take to change a situation or be of service than to be present for someone where they’re at.
It is how I felt Monday morning, kneeling beside the man on the sidewalk. There was nothing I could do to change his journey. Nothing I could do in that moment to change the course of history, the path that lead him to that moment in time when our paths intersected and he crumpled to the ground and I knelt down beside him. Uncertain as to what I could do, I did the only certain thing I knew to do. I could not leave him lying on the sidewalk without stopping to ask how I could help.
Eckhart Tolle wrote, “When you become uncomfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life.”
Listening to my daughter tell me about the man who stopped to ask her what he could do, kneeling beside the man on the ground, reading your comments in response to my post yesterday, it struck me that, stopping to ask about one another, caring about each other, reaching out to support one another, that is what all of us can do to change uncertainty into infinite possibility.
I don’t know what will happen to that man next. I don’t know if he will awaken from the darkness of his despair. I do know that had I not stopped, I would have carried the uncertainty of wondering if I could have, should have, done something other than just pass him by.
We don’t have to shake up the status quo or write the next great novel. We don’t have to find the cure for the common cold or discover hidden treasure to make a difference in the world.
To make the world a different place, all we have to do is look out for one another. All we have to do is let each other know, we care.
And in our caring attitudes, in our compassion for one another, burdens are lightened, pain is lessened and the darkness slips away into the light shining from our hearts connecting us in love.