Earlier this year, I wrote a post about a world champion speedskater who called me out of desparation. She had questions about her iron status, but what she really needed was someone to offer hope--to say, "I understand. I have been there, but no matter how impossible it seems: YOU CAN. "
Today I got a card in the mail. It was from this woman. I am not ashamed to publicly admit that the tears were flowing while I read it:
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me.... Overall, I'm feeling a lot better now than I was when we spoke--and with that, comes the ability to renew hope for my future, also.... Thank you for your candidness in speaking about your struggles. We only have one chance at this life... and life, for me, it starts with being healthy. Thank you for being part of this journey. I don't know if I'll ever go to grad school, but if I do, I sure hope I find an advisor like you.
Wow, did this hit me hard. It made me realize the power of empathy. Empathy that can only come from painful experiences that seem, at the time, to have no redeeming value. The ability to laugh with your friends when they laugh, and to cry when they cry is the best gift we can give the people we care about.
I was also struck with the importance of saying thank you to the people who have given me this gift and those who have offered me help when I needed it. There are many people who I wish I'd thanked--too many to even count--but, a couple stand out. More than 20 years ago, someone gave me a piece of paper that said, "You CAN do it" with a smiley face. I don't have the note anymore, but each day I have is because of the hope those words inspired. Several years ago, a friend said to me, "I'm pretty sure that you can do anything you make up your mind to do." I doubt this person knows the positive effect those words had on me.
From now on, I am going to make an effort to express my gratitude. I'm pretty sure that anyone who reads this blog has positively affected me in one way or another. Thank you.