On Generosity and the Village of Caring

It's often said that it takes a village to raise a child, but it's not often recognised that the same village can look after each of us throughout our lives. When we first launched into cancer treatment 3½ years ago, we did so pretty much on our own, mustering the strength to cope, day to day. It took us about two months to recognise that despite our best and most valiant efforts, we were falling behind with the taking-care-of-ourselves, despite getting the better of the cancer.Our friends had always been popping round to keep Christine company, run her to medical appointments and help out with other transport assignments in the days before I got my driving licence.

There's a lot to do, running a household with a cancer patient and a six-year-old. Laundry, cleaning, cooking, nursing, comfort and shopping took their toll on me, especially as I was still somewhat missing my family and friends in England. However, it was getting tough for all of us coping with the daily grind, and as this became apparent to the community of friends they started to do what they could to make our lives easier in other ways. It began with a pot of soup, I believe. One of our neighbouring friends dropped by one evening with a hot container of soup. "I made enough for you, too!" she told us over a cup of tea. This sort of thing continued for a time, while we remained innocent of the conspiracy of kindness that ran through this all the while. We finally twigged what was going on when another couple of friends, who live about fifty miles away came around with a cooked chicken. "We've just been shopping, and there was this chicken, and we thought of you and just dropped in". Just dropped in, indeed. An hour's drive to shop and deliver a hot chicken? All became clearer as we discovered that there was a Kevin-and-Christine Care Roster, and that all these folk were a part of it.

The loving kindness has been shown in so many ways, from people coming to sit with us, to those who helped us unpack (and pack, too - we had a move in the midst of the first round of treatment!). We've had cleaners and laundry-folders, handyfolk and organisers, child-carers and company-keepers, bringers of books and fetchers of water.

Now that we've launched once again into chemotherapy, two things have changed. Firstly, I'm now working (albeit only 20-odd hours a week at the present), and secondly, we've learned that not only do we not have to struggle, but that our friends and colleagues are only to eager to help out, and that it's actually fine to ask for assistance. So the soup-and-hot-meal rota seems to be in place again. Not just our friends and neighbours, but Tessie's 4th-grade teacher's mother has got into the action. We need not worry about being over-tired at the weekends because all we need to do is whistle, and folk will help.

Prayers and Spas

So many people have offered prayers for us; Christian, Moslem, Jewish prayers, even the atheists had good thoughts for us, which counts for prayer to me. If you're praying for us, let us know, is all - it's all kindness, all well received.

The latest manifestation of this kindness is sitting about twelve feet away from me as I write this note. It's a hot tub, delivered to our back garden yesterday. We found out about it when our friend Sam called to ask if the cars could be moved out of the driveway so it could be delivered. I'm not often speechless, but I was at that moment. Sputtering with inexpressible gratitude, I fumbled my way through my thanks, and made the required arrangements.

After some to-ing and fro-ing, not to mention crane hire and fiddling, we slotted it into place on the back patio, with a view to the south-west through the trees. It will help our family enormously, providing comfort and care not just to us, but not those people who form the village of love, the supporters and carers without whom we would be three lonely people living in an emotional desert.

Special thanks (in no particular order): Sam and Caroline, Steve. Jenny, David, Chloe and Julianna. Jim, Julie, Miles and Ella. David and Jane. Mac, Katy, Trey and Camille. Cliff and Marion, Nils and Therese, Roger and Shelagh. Georgia, Lisa, Matt, Louise and Mark, Ray and Pat. Pam, Tom, Sarah and Lauren. Elizabeth and Ken, our respective bosses. Luci, Monto, Nikea and Kailani. Not to forget the too-numerous-to-mention colleagues, friends and family and of course the cast of hundreds who've supported us at a distance, the noders of Everything2.

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