Monday, March 27, 2017

     It is only fitting that two weeks before my big performances, I should get a cold. One more layer of stress—joy.

     As I skimmed my Facebook page, I read about some of my former students attending the funeral of one of their classmates. I saw a post from a former colleague and mother of two of my very best students who is counting days before she can get into her house that burned to the ground. I mused at the photo I posted yesterday of a former student’s son who was emceeing a production of The Lion King in which two of his siblings were performing. He has a rare crippling disease.  He is 9.

     The point should be obvious. In the whole scheme of things, a cold is nothing; it’s just a cold. But there’s a more significant message here. Most people I know have had colds. They know the yucky feeling of chills and headache and cough. They can relate, and they can remember. Hopefully, they will empathize at some small level. Can we empathize with those who are enduring crises we have not experienced? Yes, but do we? Sometimes, we hear or read about someone else’s misfortune, and we think, “Oh, my. What a shame.” Thinking doesn’t communicate compassion. Doing, saying, calling, writing communicate compassion.

     I cannot do anything to help this brave little boy with his illness, but i can contribute to the research fund to find a cure. I cannot help my colleague pick out paint and flooring for her home, but I can write her a note to let her know I’m thinking of her. I can’t do anything about the incredible loss of the young man whose life was taken way too early, but I can pray for his family.

     The old “walk in my shoes” message seems so trite, but it resonates, and that’s why it’s still being quoted. 

     Last night, as I plopped my achy body onto the couch to watch a movie, I found myself entranced by a “B” rated flick that brought tears to my cheeks. “Collateral Beauty” is a film about a man who has lost his six-year-old daughter. His grief is unimaginable, but the message of the film, although some might label “banal,” made me think. The father writes letters to three things: Time, Love and Death. He had used these as a slogan in his motivational message to his advertising staff. In his grief, he lost touch with reality, and wrote letters to these three. He said, “Time, Love, Death—that’s all we’ve all got.” Without love, nothing is worthwhile. Death is inevitable. We will all die. Time is the great equalizer. No matter how rich or poor, famous or insignificant our lives, we all have nothing but Time to spend as we choose. If we waste it, it’s only our loss. 

     So what does this have to do with a cold? The first thing I thought of this morning as I poured my cuppa Joe and coughed was, “I wonder if I’ll be over this in time for my three concerts two weeks from now.” I thought about Time. I thought about how this minor physical annoyance would slow down the Time I have to do what’s on my list. I thought about how many times I have had colds, and how I always healed. This gave me comfort, as I know it will pass. I haven’t had a cold for years, so I had to think back and remember the stages. First, I get mad because I don’t have Time to be sick. Secondly, I push the Denial button. I will just ignore it and keep on going. Thirdly, I get sad. because I really don’t feel good. Finally, I accept that I’m no one special who gets a pass on colds. It’s my Time. These are some of the stages of Grief that Will Smith, the main character of the film had to endure. I am sure the family of the lost son is already dealing with these stages. There is no doubt that my colleague went through all of these when her house burned down. There is no question that my former student deals with recurring feelings of Denial, Anger, Grief as he watches his courageous young son go on with his little life with a smile on his face.

    What are you enduring? Will Love help? Will you die from it? How much Time will you need to get through it? Do you have friends who are dealing with crises and who would love to have a kind word from you, especially those whom you may not have seen in a long time? Walk in their shoes this morning. Over your cuppa Joe, think about how Love and Time operate in your life. Pick up a phone, compose a hand-written note of support, say a prayer. I’ll be here coughing.