Oftentimes when tragedy, illness, accidents or any manner of difficult things happen, well-meaning people do their best to soften the blow. Believe me, I have been enormously grateful throughout my life for the tenderness, kindness and practical help of loved ones. I needed there encouragement and benefitted from it. There is, however, another aspect to caring and I was reminded of this in a story Jack Kornfield described in his book The Wise Heart.
During a time Jack was living in a forest monastery in Thailand and studying with the meditation master Ajahn Chah, he contracted malaria like most others who resided there. Although he had received medicine it was slow to take effect and he was in his little hut feverish and wretched.
His teacher, Ajah Chah came to his hut to check on him and the conversation went like this.
“Sick and feverish, huh?” he asked.
“Yes,” I replied weakly.
“It’s painful all over, isn’t it?”
“‘Makes you feel sorry for yourself, doesn’t it?…makes you want to go home to see your Mother?’ He smiled and nodded. ‘Yes, it’s suffering, alright (he continued)…at least now we have good medicine’…he waited for a while, then he looked at me with the warmth of a kind grandfather.
‘You can bear it, you know. You can do it.’
And I felt that he was fully there with me, that he knew my pain from his own hard struggles. It took another day for the medicine to kick in, but his simple kindness made the situation bearable. His compassion gave me courage.”
I was touched by this description and it reminded me of an incident just before my surgery. A student in a workshop I was facilitating, who had been through a difficult cancer treatment, approached me and said something like, “I’m glad that it is you who got cancer, rather than someone else.”
English was not her first language and she explained. “Please don’t be offended…I mean that you have the resources that will help you manage the cancer treatment. You can do it.” And then she kissed me on both cheeks.
At the time I laughed with her over the unusual way to express caring for someone who was diagnosed with cancer. In retrospect I understand the wisdom of her words. She had been through tough times herself and she recognized that we need strength to go through it. Her words stayed with me and since that day they continue to give me courage. They remind me of my own strength and toughness, during difficult times.
Whenever others say the equivalent of “You can bear it, you know. You can do it;” their confidence and strength reinforce my own. I am most thankful for these tough angels in my life. They have made an enormous difference.
When we face the unexpected and the difficult, we all have resources to “bear it.” We need our friends, of course. We need all the help we can get. But never forget this important truth: as tough as it can be, you can do it. We all can.
Note: May you all have many moments of joy during this beautiful month of August. Until next week, Trudy