SHARING and CARING…it’s what LIFE is all about!

Talking the Talk and Walking the Walk

Posted by on Sep 6, 2012 in Blog, Family | 2 comments

I read recently that experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you. And I’m reminded of my brother.

The other day I had an unusually long conversation with my older brother, Doug. I learned something about him that I never knew before. Doug has been a volunteer for over a year in the cancer ward at the hospital in Windsor. In itself, this is no great feat…there are many who volunteer for countless, mundane tasks in hospitals. But then, my brother is a cancer survivor and somehow that changes things. Sympathy becomes empathy. He can talk the talk because he has walked the walk.

Doug volunteers twice a week for a half day to register new patients, walking them through the Q and A form that can be distressing and hard to answer. He knows firsthand how difficult that is…after all, he did it once, too. He provides support as they endure understandable fear, sometimes anger and often denial, and he willing goes to the hardest part of the ward, offering coffee or juice to those anchored by the chemo needle.

Being a survivor of the dreaded “Big C” is BIG, and it takes courage and strength to willingly submerge oneself in the presence of those who have recently received such devastating news.

Feeling sorry for someone who faces the cancer demon is as far as I can go. I wish I could go deeper. My new friend has just received word that her cancer has returned, and I wish I could hold Chris’s hand in silence, having a full grasp of what she is feeling. Sure, I can try to find the right words, but fail miserably. I can express sorry, but have absolutely no understanding of the plight she is facing. I can even express rage and disgust at the unfairness of it all. But, no matter how much I want to or even try, I can’t identify with her anguish and fear. I’ve never had cancer. I can only pray that Chris will have someone like my brother to walk with her through the journey that lies ahead of her.


…because Doug goes deeper, far deeper into the feelings a person is experiencing as he or she faces the unknown and often terrifying future. That’s empathy, a big difference from just feeling sorry for someone.

My conversation with my brother ended forty minutes after it had started. I had listened closely and quietly as he’d shared his feelings about what he was doing. From what he said, it’s almost a calling…actually, I believe it is a calling. Only a very special person could do what he does… even to spending his birthday on Tuesday with those whose future is uncertain.

Kudos to you, Doug. I’m very proud of you for doing something with what has happened to you.


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  1. Heather

    Love transcends time and space and is always returned. Blessings to your brother for sharing his love. In a thanatology course I took and loved at Western a doctor in palliative care said, “It’s not how long you visit, but that you visit and show you care.” Listening and a caring attitude go deep.

    • Ruth Waring

      Heather, several years ago I saw a sign on a gas station lot that read: “Talking is sharing. Listening is caring.” I made it my theme for my speaking ministry. I think it’s very appropriate to acknowledge those who sacrifice personal time to walk with those in distress, not just in hospitals, but anywhere. Thanks for your comments!

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