I watched an acquaintance from afar for a few months. First, I noticed she’d been dropping out of activities she’d always been part of. Someone who had been a steady presence in my circle of activities vanished, and I wasn’t sure why. She is the dynamo I’d always seen taking charge of committees and helping those in need and signing on to lead new initiatives.
Next, my grandson told me she was ill and couldn’t continue teaching his class (a volunteer position I knew she loved so much). At the time, I remember hoping it was a short-lived illness. Soon I did see her here and there. I didn’t ask her about her illness, though, for fear I’d be prying.
I next noticed her using a walker to get around. Then I realized her new hairdo was actually a wig. The realization threw me straight back to one of the toughest times of my life. The enemy, Cancer, and I were well-acquainted. We’d met as I’d cared for my daughter in 2015 when she was diagnosed. I remembered how helpless I felt at that time and how I did all I could to stay strong so my daughter had everything she needed while we waited and prayed for a clean bill of health.
Finally, sure I could be a source of support, I approached this dynamo of a lady and asked how I could help. I told her I could make meals and drive her to her treatments. Her response was gracious and simple: she thanked me for my kindness but said she was doing fine.
In the past, I would have given up at that point, but I’ve learned to stay the course. The next week when I saw her, I offered again and received another thank you, but no. Shortly thereafter, though, I received an email accepting my offer to drive her to her treatment. She shared the details regarding date, time, and location, and I blocked off my schedule for the entire day.
The treatment center is about an hour from where we live, and I prepared myself to be okay with however she wanted to spend her time in the car. If she wanted to rest, that would work. If she wanted me to talk, I’d find topics that would work for us both. Music? Yes, the radio could keep us company. I thought I was ready for anything but wasn’t expecting what I received.
We began our trek, and she asked about my daughter who does have that clean bill of health. (Knock on wood that never ends.) She asked about my business and what I enjoy most about the coaching and training I do. I wanted to learn more about the woman I’ve admired from afar for so long, though, so I began asking her questions as well. I asked questions about her career, her kids and grandkids, her husband who passed away unexpectedly a few years ago, her mother (who is in her 90s and with whom some tables have turned as this acquaintance needs assistance she didn’t once need). I was mesmerized by her stories and her life.
As I listened, I got more than I bargained for. I was the one who was supposed to be providing the assistance to her. I was to be the helper. The person doing the giving in this situation. Instead, she taught me a lot that day. To sum up our two hours together in the car that day, I’ve put my lessons learned into this list of 3 Gs!
1. Go the distance.
I learned my acquaintance doesn’t just have cancer. She has pancreatic cancer where the median survival rate is from two to six months. And it’s stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
She signed on to be part of a trial that she firmly believes has allowed her to live longer than she would have otherwise. While she is thankful for that blessing, what struck me most was her desire to help others not have to go through what she’s going through based on what is learned in this trial.
2. Be grateful, even when the situation is hard.
Several people are helping with transportation to the treatment center, and her gratitude for that assistance shone through in everything she said. I also heard gratitude in her voice, though, when she discussed spending time with her children and grandchildren who don’t live in our area. She understands how busy their lives are and spoke fondly of visits they make to see her.
Gratitude was also present in the way she spoke of the doctors and nurses who care for her. She is thankful for their presence and for their expertise. Her mother, too, received gratitude for being able to assist in ways she hadn’t had to in the past.
3. Be generous.
My acquaintance has always been generous with the time she’s given to many charitable causes so I knew this was part of her core. Before the day we spent together, she had told me she’d buy me lunch when she finished with her treatment. I told her I’d be the one buying us both lunch! Guess who bought the lunch? (She’s persistent, too, although that word doesn’t start with a G!)
I dropped her off when our time together was complete, and it wasn’t until I hopped in my car the next morning that I noticed a little envelope on my dashboard. In it was a gift card for a local restaurant and a thank you note from her.
Her generosity with the purchased lunch and gift card are much appreciated, but her generosity in sharing her life lessons with me was even more touching.
Making an Impact
I came home that day and shared with my husband a bit about the day’s happenings. I felt strange, somewhat numb, and I realized how much I learned that day when I was—in my mind anyway—the one who was supposed to be providing assistance. It was unexpected to get so much when I expected to be the giver.
Now, I ask myself, and I encourage you to ask yourself:
Do I go the distance every day of my life? Am I giving my all for causes that mean the most to me, or am I simply checking off boxes on my to-do list that must be completed each day? Do I look at my goals and accomplishments in a selfish way where I’m just looking to get ahead, or do I keep in mind that going the distance is all about sharing my gifts and talents with others to help them as much as I can?
Is gratitude part of who I am? Gratitude is a buzzword these days, and most (hopefully all) of us are consciously thankful for our families, friends, careers, and security in the comforts of our lives. How grateful are we, though, for the difficult client who teaches us to step up our game? Do we give thanks for the failures we experience knowing it is from failures that we learn to do things in different, better ways? Is gratitude present for the bumps in the road we experience—like my daughter’s cancer—because it is through those bumps that we learn how to be most helpful to others?
How generous am I with my money, my time, my expertise, my patience, and my family? I’ve worked with many people who have a me, me, me mentality. They scramble to get ahead in life and don’t seem to care who they push out of the way to get there. I’ve worked with other people who aren’t pushing others out of the way, but they are going through life on autopilot. They go through the motions each day and find comfort in the routines. I ask myself how I can add generosity to each of the days I’m blessed to have.
Blocking out one day of my work schedule to help an acquaintance turned into a full day of learning about what life is really about. And she’s no longer an acquaintance. She’s my friend. A friend I had the great privilege of sharing my day with. And I thank her for HER assistance to me!