The gifts of ALS: generosity, kindness and compassion
CHARLOTTE, N.C., March 5, 2017 — I was beginning to lose hope in the direction the world was taking after over a decade of horrific crimes against humanity in our own country and other places around the world.
Now as I conclude another week in my on-going struggle with ALS, I face each day with renewed hope that the basic goodness in people surrounds us each and every day. Truthfully, had it not been for this illness, I very well might have concluded my life without even realizing it.
I’ve spent three decades traveling the world, attempting to see every nook and cranny possible. I have had life altering experiences in Romania, Germany, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia and Russia, to mention just a few. But now my reality has brought me home, and I have witnessed over the past several months outpourings of love, friendship, and compassion from friends, neighbors, relatives and people I have never met.
On the day I was diagnosed with ALS, I went home and wrote down four goals I want to follow throughout this ordeal:
- Be positive
- Stay active
- Do things I enjoy
- Stay happy
Staying happy may be the most difficult; each new day saps away something I could accomplish just the day before. Not that I dwell on the situation so much as I realize I am gradually becoming a burden to others with a momentum that nobody can stop.
Over the past few months, people have stopped by from time to time to bring food or dessert or just to sit and chat for a while. How wonderful to learn that conversation still exists and has not disappeared into the world of social media.
I have had e-mails from high school classmates I haven’t heard from in years who now live hundreds or thousands of miles away.
Other high school friends have called just to check in or to take me to lunch or to offer to help in any way possible.
My son-in-law, the quintessential salesman, took it upon himself to refinance our house, contact the Veteran’s Administration to obtain military healthcare and to see if I qualify for disability.
My free-spirited son, who I thought would never grow up, has organized a fund-raising slo-pitch softball game in July to raise money and develop awareness of ALS.
The day after I put twenty stitches in my head from a fall on my front step, my brother-in-law was installing wheelchair ramps for the inevitable day when a walk in the neighborhood on a cool spring evening is no longer feasible.
Just a few weeks later, my brother-in-law had a serendipitous encounter with the president of Carolina Asphalt here in Charlotte. Without hesitation, the president said that his company had had an employee who died of ALS, and he would send out a crew Thursday morning to repair the sidewalk so that it would guide a wheelchair onto the ramp.
The crew was there on time and by noon a concrete sidewalk was in place.
Promptly the following day, Carolina Asphalt was back at the house, removing the braces and cleaning up the project.
And finally, members of the congregation at a small church in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina took it upon themselves to create a stunning piece of mountain craftsmanship. The Linville United Methodist Church Quilting Group, at the request of a member of our church in Charlotte, sewed a magnificent quilt on one side with a cross and a verse from the book of Matthew on the other.
At the bottom of the quilt, they stitched my name and the date it was finished.
Random acts of kindness and compassion, many of those acts coming from people I do not know and may never know. And through it all, not a single person asked for thanks. They each performed their own unique talents and skills with acts of pure generosity and heartfelt sincerity.
I have indeed been restored in my faith in people, and for this, I am truly blessed.
And just to keep my promise about staying happy, I attended a funeral last week and someone asked me, “When your life is over and family and friends are in mourning, what would you like to hear them say about you?”
“Good question,” I thought. “Pondering for what seemed like an eternity, I turned to my colleague and replied, “I’d like to hear them say … LOOK! HE’S MOVING!”
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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