When I’m down like this, I find that one of the best ways to feel better is to get out of myself and help someone else. So I enlisted as a hospice volunteer.
Why, when she seems so lost about
everything else, did she sound so certain,
so fully present, about this?
Today I was visiting Bill, one of my patients. Though he still possesses nearly all his faculties, he lives in a facility that specializes in so-called memory care, so I’m accustomed to seeing his neighbors wandering aimlessly, misplacing what little stuff they have left, often looking quite bewildered.
Just as we’re leaving his room, one of them tottered up to me. June is a very quiet, shy woman who walks idle laps around the perimeter of the floor and often mistakes Bill’s room for her own. She rarely speaks to anyone—certainly not to me—and when she does, it’s usually just to ask for directions.
Okay, I thought, maybe she’s mistaking me for a staff member or a fellow resident. So I said a casual hello, and then, just as I turned to walk away, she reached out, put her hand on my back and rubbed it sympathetically. “It’s going to be okay,” she said in a sure but gentle voice. “Everything’s going to be okay.”
That scene—the effect of June’s touch, the clarity of her gaze, the knowingness in her voice—has kept replaying in my mind all day. Was she just confused like she is about other things? Why, when she seems so lost about everything else, did she sound so certain, so fully present, about this? Could she possibly have sensed that I’ve been hurting?
It’s as if there’s this rhythm to life. We can’t
always hear it because the dance hall is such
a cacophony of other sounds.
DEAF TO THE MUSIC
I realize now that it’s entirely up to me what the meaning of this little interaction was—and is—for me. And no matter how or why it was given, I believe it was a gift. Not only did it help me feel better; it also reminds me of how many other blessings there are in my life like this one, hiding in plain sight.
Little gifts like this come very close to us all the time—warm smiles lost in passing, inspirations not seized, narrow escapes unappreciated, coincidences rationalized away, Nature’s wonders taken for granted. It’s so easy to miss them in the muddle of agendas, expectations, worries and sheer self-indulgence that surrounds us much of the time.
It’s as if there’s this rhythm to life. We can’t always hear it because the dance hall is such a cacophony of other sounds. We falter and stumble. But once we manage to turn the din down, even a little bit, sure enough, there it is. And, once we hear the rhythm, feel it, suddenly, miraculously, we no longer have to even think about where to place our feet, for the music is moving us.
Isn’t that the way it is with small wonders? When we allow the background noise of life to get too loud, they don't move us because we can’t hear them. Just like the simple gift June bestowed on me, it’s so easy to miss them, or at least to misinterpret them as chance or error or simply devoid of meaning.
Don’t we have the power—and I would suggest a compelling need—to give them that meaning?