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The language of JOY

October 24, 2013

Yesterday, after receiving the good news from the doctor, I tried to leave the medical center as quickly as possible so I could sit in my car and weep.  I got off the elevator in the lobby, nodded hello to a young man, and headed for the door.  The young man interrupted me saying, “Ec-cuse.  You help?”  He was holding a piece of paper out to me.  I read it and realized that this young man didn’t know where to go because he didn’t speak English.  We were standing across from the directory, so I pointed to the third floor listing, held up three fingers with one hand, and pointed up with my other hand.  The young man’s face showed that my attempts to help… didn’t.  I took a deep breath, smiled, and motioned for the man to follow me into the elevator.  I pushed the button for the third floor and I was on my way back into the medical center.  Once we were on the third floor, I consulted the directory near the elevator and led this man to the correct office.  We entered and I found the right desk.  There was a line, but I caught the receptionist’s eye as I told told the man (using large hand gestures), “Talk to this lady and she will help you.”  The receptionist nodded at me, the man smiled appreciatively, and I left the office.

I finally was able to leave the building and I did sit in my car and cry.  I pulled myself together and began my errand-filled drive home from the hospital.  Serious medical issues are one thing, but the price of gas makes it prudent to run my errands while I am driving in that part of town!!!  Every time I stopped the car, I had to fix my eye makeup before I scared any of the store clerks.  Every time I got back in the car, I had more time to think about my morning.

I was relieved that I didn’t have to face a cancer diagnosis, cancer treatment, and risk my Relapsing Polychondritis spiraling out of control.  I was grateful for a quick and clear answer.  When I thought about my brief encounter with that young man, I became grateful for the subtler blessings of the day.  I can speak and read English.  I can talk with the doctors, explain myself, and understand their responses.  Medical issues can be (are!) huge and scary, but they would be insurmountably huge and scary if I could not understand or be understood.

If you think that you have nothing to be grateful for today, be grateful that you speak the language of the land (here in the United States).  I have traveled abroad.  When I was in Russia, I had a difficult time buying breakfast; I cannot imagine how difficult it would have been to seek medical treatment in a country where I speak less than 100 words of their language.

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