Gifts and Appreciations

Well, I just have returned from having a second opinion concerning my cancer. The doctor reaffirmed the initial diagnosis. I do have prostrate cancer. It is in its early stages. It is “treatable.” Most important my Susan is assured and relieved as assured and relieved as she can be in this kind of situation. I have opted to have surgery in a little more two weeks from now, on the 26th, and will take three to four weeks recuperative leave from the physical classroom while entering the virtual classroom by keeping in contact with the students via computer.

I’ve also returned to two weeks worth of e-mails, nearly five hundred messages waiting for me. Almost half of them have made me speechless and paralyzed my fingers. This is one of those rare times I really don’t know what to say. I am so touched, so sincerely touched. I have such deep gratitude for the outpouring of sharing, reassurance, support, and encouragement from a host of people, many are close friends, many of whom are e-friends I’ve never met face to face or heard the sound of their voices, many of whom I’ve heard from for the first time telling me I am in their prayers. I have received e-cards from people whom I do not know. It’s such an uplift.

Actually, I do know what to say. A quiet and deeply sincere “thank you for your true gift” is all that needs to be said, for it says it all.

I am deeply thankful because these messages once again have forcefully reminded me that I could treat this cancer like a grudge. I once lived my life with a tightly held grudge. But, I learned a little over a decade ago that I wouldn’t be healthier or happier if I held on to it or any other grudges, large or small, tightly or loosely. I have come to learn what Confucius meant when he said, “To be wronged is nothing unless we continue to remember it.” Any decision to hold on to a grievance over this cancer would be my decision to suffer. More than that, it would extend the suffering into all facets of my life. And in a peculiar way it would give the cancer a way to hurt me and others again and again. Think about it. Focusing on this cancer won’t somehow punish the cancer any more than holding on to a grudge would harm the wrongdoer. No, I would only hurt myself and others far more. I’d give it permission to become a candle-snuffing or cloud covering entity. I would allow it to dwell in my the dark recesses of my consciousness and not allow me to enjoy the light of day; I wouldn’t be able free myself of it and be able to live freely today.

Yes, the words of these sincere well-wishers, then, are true gifts. What’s a true gift? It’s the timeless one. It’s the one that never ends. It’s the one that lasts long after the words have been erased, the cards have been discarded, decorations have been taken down and stored, the tree has been placed at the curb, the menorah have been returned to the shelf, the songs have been sung, seasonal rituals and traditions have given way to the return of the routine “normality of life,” and, in this case, the cancer has been extracted. The true gift is the one that is ever-lasting and treasured. It’s like that something meaningful and purposeful in the classroom that does not end after the lectures have been given, the notes written, the tests taken, the grades given, and the term ends. It’s something that goes far beyond and dives much deeper and lasts a lot longer than the immediacy of the grade and the confines of the subject information.

So, because of all you well-wishers out there, one of my resolutions, as my surgery date approaches, is to more resolutely feel about, look at, think about, and talk about this cancer with a simple: “screw you!!”

Thank you once again.

The lesson for us in life and life in the classroom is simple. Don’t underestimate the impact we have when we take the time to share ourselves with others, to support and encourage someone, to make someone feel worthy, significant, sacred, valued, valuable, noticed, and above all loved. So, if you want to make a difference in the lives of others, be they friends or family or strangers or colleagues or superiors or students, remember that no warm greeting of acknowledgement, no act of loving kindness, no gentle smile of encouragement, no soft words of appreciation are ever wasteful or wasted.

Make it a good day.

–Louis–
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