Tuesday, August 13, 2013

You do what you can

I have people close to me who have endured terrible times. Friends who, even as I write this, are going through life-searing, soul-wrenching times. And I feel helpless, useless. I want so badly to fix those problems, and there's nothing I can do about it.

One day someone I love dearly from my home town told me that she recently had a miscarriage. She was suffering, and I could see the woundedness in her eyes. And stupidly, I said something trite about "trying again." She was gracious, but even as the words left my lips I knew it was the worst thing to say to a woman still grieving for her unborn.

I'm not sure I know how to be a good friend during those times. The right words aren't there. I fumble, with ghastly results. How do you help someone who's suffering? Or a family in pain?

My friend lost his only son to cancer a few years ago. It was a long, anguishing time, full of alternating moments of hope and despair. He said it felt like his soul was being pulled out through his nose.

We were part of a community that stood alongside him and his family. We cheered, and prayed, and cried, and eventually we grieved. One day we saw people gathered in their yard, pulling weeds. "People just want to help," his wife said. "So they do what they can."

People doing what they can. It's a beautiful thing.

This spring my wife and I were out of town for a few days, in Seattle for some surgery. When we came home, we were greeted by the aroma of freshly-spread bark and hanging plants. Friends had gathered in our absence and - anonymously - worked on our much-neglected landscaping. My wife refers to them as our "home beautification fairies." We were touched.

These past few seasons, my family has lived with the reality of a serious cancer that has sprung up in my body. For my wife, it's hard. Cures don't come quickly. There's no quick fix.

But hope is alive and well in our house, and Carrie finds a cancer-research fundraiser in Seattle called "Obliteride." She signs up for the bike ride, and starts training. She artfully taps into her Facebook world and girlfriend network, and surpasses her fundraising goal.

The day comes. She helmets up and checks the pressure in her front tire. The bike is twenty years old, one of a pair that we bought in our courting days. She tells me she hasn't trained hard enough to deserve a new bike yet.

I give her a squeeze and see her off. Down the street, onto the trail. The hills come, and soon she's standing on her pedals.

I breathe in the cool Seattle air, and reflect that I'm fortunate to see grace walk upon this earth. Only today, it isn't walking - it's spinning on two wheels. Weaving through the city neighborhoods. Doing what it can.


  1. You really should stop cutting onions in here, Harvey. Seriously.


  2. Replies
    1. Thank you, Kimberly. I appreciate that!

  3. I like Edward's comment... :-) And, I love you.