When I was in the hospital with Leukemia I met some new friends. Many nurses and doctors became my friends, but I also made 4 new friends who also had Leukemia. We became fast friends. And even though we don’t know what each other’s favorite movies are or favorite foods (other than anything NOT from the hospital) or even things as simple as how old all our kids are, we do know two things without question: One, We share the same disease and two, “there, but for the grace of God, go I.” One of my friends had to have a bone marrow transplant. One is in the hospital even as I type, preparing for an upcoming transplant. At his last check-up they found Leukemia blasts. And another, I am sad to say, passed away 2 days ago, after enduring chemo and a transplant. Any of the previous scenarios could have just as easily been mine.
I also go to a Support Group. One of the common saying is that when listening or reading, it’s important to “listen for the similarities rather than the differences.” When we do that, we realize that we all share the same “disease” at our core, even when the specifics of the disease vary. In that identification, we find camradery. When we find the similarities with one another, the details don’t matter so much. I have found that after enduring Leukemia and spending much time in rooms of Recovery and well, just interacting with others in this daily life, that one, we all share the same disease and two, “there but for the grace of God, Go I.”
When I visit my Leukemia friends, we share an understanding of this kind of suffering that trump the years it typically takes to break through the surface and get to the root of our fears and struggles. It doesn’t matter that our hobbies are different and our faith is different and that we have money or don’t (if you have Leukemia, the answer is that you probably don’t anymore). What matters is that we have empathy for one another because we have been there. Or are there. If we could just manage to live this way among the people we interact with every day. Because the truth is the same for all of us-we share the same disease; what God calls the sinful nature. It causes grief for ourselves and others. And other people’ sinful natures do the same to us. It causes broken hearts and wounded souls on a consistent basis. But if we remember that it is a disease we all share and as a result, demonstrate compassion and patience and tenderness with each other-think of how different we would react to people around us. And of course, if we remind ourselves that it is only by the grace and mercy of God that we are not experiencing similar crisis or misfortune, we can move through our days with the kindness and understanding of one who knows that we are all in this together.