I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not very adventurous.
When we were waiting on test results, my sister asked if Sophia and I would like to join her and her daughter, Emery for a trip to London next summer. For the first time in my life I am actually considering it, despite my fear of flying over water. I’ve never been anywhere outside of the US. The farthest I’ve traveled is to Alaska, and as far as I know, we didn’t fly over water.
I don’t know if it’s simply because I watched every episode of Lost or if fear just has that strong of a hold on me, but something about that has changed these past few weeks.
My whole perspective has shifted.
Things that were once really important now seem petty. I can’t believe I ever wasted time and energy on them before. Sophia’s diagnosis has made me realize what a small life I’ve been living.
I grew up in the church, and a big thing in church is that verse “Here I am, Lord, send me.” I would always pray/sing that verse with a caveat. “Here I am, Lord, send me…but not overseas. Not anywhere without running water. Not anywhere uncomfortable.”
He’s sent me somewhere uncomfortable. And even though we have indoor plumbing, it’s still way outside what I ever wanted to do. And yet, here we are.
I’ve also lauded the benefits of social media because after we found out we were dealing with the C-word, the outpouring of social media love/advice/wisdom/prayers TRULY carried us through. But there’s also something to be said for disconnecting for a little while. When we started our business, I felt like God was telling me it’s great to have an online presence, but what he really wanted for me was a real life presence. I didn’t have much of that because I have some social anxiety issues and I’m awkward sometimes. I feel that even more now.
If you sit on your computer, glued to Twitter all day long, you will see arguments and blatant ugliness. You’ll see fighting and name-calling. You’ll see grown adults acting the exact way we teach our children not to act. You can easily step away feeling beaten up. You can feel hopeless, like this word is a straight-up disaster.
But God reminded me this morning of our trip in to Chicago to Lurie’s, the amazing children’s hospital we visited last Friday. (Was it only Friday? My timeline is all messed up. Every day seems to take so much longer than twenty-four hours.) We arrived early, having overcompensated for traffic, and we had about an hour before Sophia’s appointment. We didn’t know where we were going, but we got in the elevator to head up to registration when the most beautiful Muslim woman walked in. It was just the three of us in the elevator. She carried a tote bag, and though I nosily looked, I couldn’t tell what was inside–children’s books, maybe?
We exchanged a quick word or two, the way you do with strangers–something inconsequential about the weather or the speed of the elevator, I can’t remember. When we reached our floor, she smiled and told us to have a good day. I thought to myself, my daughter has cancer, almost as if a part of me wanted to share it with her. As if her kind eyes would understand.
We exited the elevator and got our bearings, and when we figured out where we were going, we ended up in the registration line right behind her. We exchanged another small-talk type of smile, the kind that said, “Oh, we just said goodbye and now here we are again.” After we checked in, we still had about an hour, but we wanted to figure out where the office was, so we moved toward the elevator. There she was again–beautiful, sympathetic eyes–the kind that said “I know what you’re going through.”
After all, she was at the children’s hospital too. I wish I’d asked her who she was there to see. Was it a child or a grandchild? A friend or a neighbor? I don’t know. But I know that in those moments, she and I weren’t a Muslim woman and a Christian woman. We weren’t Arab and Caucasian. We were two women, connected in a way that neither of us probably wanted to be connected. We were kindreds. I wished we could’ve sat down for coffee. I wished I could’ve told her all the things I was bottling up, the fears, the worries, the confusion, the doubts. I wished I could’ve found out how she’s holding up and told her I understand.
We rode back down the elevator and it opened on the sixth floor. There she was again, standing against the wall as if she was waiting for someone. Our eyes met and she gave me one last smile, the kindest kind of smile, as if she was sending me strength I didn’t know I had. As if she was saying You’re going to be okay. I put on my brave face and sent her one back, hoping it worked, hoping she felt brave that day.
That kind of thing doesn’t happen on social media. The world wants us to be enemies, that woman and I. We have so little in common, and yet–so much.
The whole day went that way. Kindness around us everywhere we looked. People smiling in spite of their own fears. It wrapped us up and sent us onward with good feelings instead of bad. It made me feel strong and brave.
We do that for each other. If we can step outside of ourselves for a moment and look up, we can do that for someone else. The way that woman unknowingly did it for me.
My entire worldview has changed. I see things through a cancer-shaded lens. Petty things matter less. People matter more. Time isn’t wasted. Love is freely given. Forgiveness goes without saying. More of HIM and less of me.
I still don’t have a lot of desire to go to a third world country, but these hard places where God is sending me, I’ll go through those. Not because I want to, but because I have to. Because this is what he’s set in front of us. We can’t fix it or figure it out on our own. Nothing about it really makes sense, but I have to believe that He’s going to use it–somehow. That all the pain and the worry and the fear (because there are still those things) can be laid down at His feet, a burden I don’t have to carry on my own.
I’m thankful for that.