Common Ground for Angels and Guns

Over the last two weeks my wife and I have been spending a lot of time in clinics,  infusion centers, and radiology departments getting treatment for my leukemia. This story is from the infusion center.  Infusion centers provide blood transfusions, IV antibiotics, chemotherapy and platelets.  Most of the people we have met there are couples like us, patient and caregiver.  We have become friends with many already.   The common challenge of cancer helps people to connect quickly, sharing their stories and exchanging phone numbers.  The internal resistance many have when among strangers is reduced by the observation of clear common goals.  I use the term “internal” because this resistance is not between people but is held within each  person’s mind.

My wife Kary has, as is her way, come up with a magic internal resistance dissolver.  She makes angels out of masks and offers them to patients and infusion staff.  She calls them “angels of hope”.  Everyone loves getting them and often hang them from their IV poles and then take them home.  She has been doing this for over a year and she has become known as the Angel Lady.

About two weeks ago, for several consecutive visits, we were seated near a man who was always alone.  His demeanor with the staff was cold and combative though he was always quiet and non-threatening.  Each day he wore the same baseball-type cap.  The design of this cap looked familiar to me so a did a search.  This cap is called a 1791 cap and commentates the passage of the Bill of Rights.  Actually the focus is on the second amendment as indicated by the front of the cap which  says “2A” with the A formed by two assault rifles.  In today’s political environment one can only see this as provocative and for me it conjures up a sadness and anger at the ignorance of the violence this promotes.  My internal resistance here was strong and I knew I would just as soon avoid engagement with this person.

Well, Karyl had different ideas.  Her angels do not discriminate.  She walked over and offered him one.  He seemed both amused and surprised that she would take time to approach him.  Karyl is very good at getting people to open up and so we learned a bit of his story.  A few days earlier he had been informed that his progress was not good and that he needed to get back to Northside from his home near the North Carolina border.  He was alone because this emergency came just as his son was to be married the next day.  The family decided that the wedding would go on as planned and his wife would stay for the event while he would drive to Sandy Springs and stay at a local hotel while the new tests and treatments were being conducted.  Karyl of course expressed her concern and compassion for his situation.  He had some very significant uncertainties and was facing them largely alone.

We didn’t see him for several days as our appointments didn’t align.  The next time we did he was again alone.  I too was alone for that moment as Karyl has gone to do some business with the cancer clinic.  He was still wearing his 1791 2A patriot cap as he slowly walked over to my chair.  His gruff demeanor was gone and he had tears welling up in his eyes.  He said quietly, “Please tell your wife that the angels are working!”.  He explained that the tests had indicated a very positive outlook.  His spinal fluid was completely free of leukemia cells or markers.

One could have a discussion about believing that a piece of cloth in the shape of an angel could have magical powers or about he power of the unsolicited compassionate gesture giving him power to fight his cancer harder.  It did seem to be that he was thinking something like that and it was a beautiful moment for him.  My own response to this was the change in my own initial internal resistance.  It was inspiring and a little confusing to see this man so much an opposite of me showing his own emotional vulnerability.  I need to reflect on the barriers I put up that would have never lead to any positive interaction.  I am very thankful and in fact in awe of Karyl’s Angels of Hope.

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4 Responses to Common Ground for Angels and Guns

  1. Rev. Jan says:

    Thank you, Terry. And inspiring story on how we can lower the veil that separates us and allow for the possibility that our compassion can make a difference. There are angels in our midst and Karol is clearly one of them.

  2. Peggy A says:

    Beautiful and touching story, Terry. I agree with you that Karyl is an angel on earth with her friendly and caring gesture. I hope I will remember this story next time I feel resistance toward someone I encounter, and follow Karyl’s example.

  3. Eileen Maxfield says:

    Thank you for inspiration on how attitudes/resistances can miraculously change.
    So many stories from my own life to write up for this group. Thanks again

  4. katrina yurko says:

    I’ll put this story in the pocket of my heart. It is story that should be told again and again until it is lived and lived again.

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