Pay it Forward February
A few months ago, I received an email from Christa Nelson, owner of Epiphany, a local public relations and marketing firm.
In honor of her upcoming 50th birthday, she decided to dedicate 50 weeks to giving back and acts of kindness. She was looking to highlight the work of some of her favorite nonprofit organizations and said this included the National Resilience Institute, the organization that I founded and direct.
Christa has been a passionate partner in bringing others to our mission of thriving, helping them understand how to donate time, talents and treasure and help more people together. So while it didn’t surprise me that she wanted to encourage others to find creative ways to help meet our needs and bolster our work, it did delight me.
I quickly settled on the month of February.
It is the month I was born – shared with others I hold dear.
In my country, it is a month that dedicates a day to celebrating love and another to great leadership.
And housing the day of my cancer diagnosis, it is the month that marks the beginning of my journey as a cancer survivor.
As part of her half century birthday celebration, Christa asked if I also would personally shape an act of kindness to do together. Oh, the possibilities…
With her request running in the background of my mind one day, I set off for a follow-up appointment with my oncologist. I’m not sure if this impacted how I was viewing those around me. Perhaps it simply was the point in my healing – somewhere in the murky waters between focusing on surviving and desiring a state of thriving. For whatever the reason, I felt profound compassion rise time and time as I took in the women around me.
As I parked my car, I watched a woman tenderly shuffle across the parking lot and I saw myself in her as I recovered from the surgery that removed the cancer and rearranged my body. As I walked through the front doors, I saw a woman walking out with a dazed look on her face and I recalled the absolute overwhelm of my doctors talking through options and procedures and treatments. As I checked in for my appointment, my eyes settled on a woman sitting around the corner getting her blood drawn. I recalled sitting in that same chair to start the genetic testing and detailed discussions of risks and prognosis for an earlier death than I had previously entertained.
All I wanted to do was hug these women. Each and every one of them. Not tell them I understood. Not make suggestions. Not even give them an assurance that they were stronger than the challenges they were facing. But simply to remind them that they are precious and surrounded by others who see and care for them far beyond any diagnosis or life situation.
So on some days this month, you will find me, Christa and other lovely people at the Hall-Perrine Cancer Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa wearing FREE HUGS t-shirts. Our home base will be the McIntyre Patient Resource Center on the first floor, a space that provided me with both respite and resources during my cancer journey.
We will be sharing some mementos of inspiration if people want to take one home. But mostly, we’ll simply be offering love, holding a space of care, and reminding others that despite walking a path that only they can walk, they most certainly are not alone.