There was a patient, who is a twenty-two-year old woman, now cancer-free, after being treated here at UCSF for eleven years. While she was an inpatient, she received communion daily from our Spiritual Care volunteers. One of the volunteers had a wonderful conversation with her, just before she was discharged, hopefully for the last time. The volunteer wished her well, “You have been through so much and it was so awful. May you be cancer-free forever!” The beautiful, young woman said, “Without suffering, there would be no compassion.” What wisdom from a twenty-two-year-old! Without suffering, there would be no compassion. This patient felt that her own suffering had taught her compassion.
What the patient didn’t know was that the volunteer had just lost her son to cancer. He was a National Park Ranger atYosemite. He was in his thirties and only married for three years. He had died four months ago. This was the volunteer’s first time volunteering for Spiritual Care Services. She was profoundly moved and inspired by this young patient, who was cancer-free at last. She said she received so much more than she gave in service to others that morning by volunteering.
Think for a moment about the times of suffering, which you have been through.
Has it made you bitter?
Or has it become a resource for understanding others?
Has it led to greater compassion and empathy for others?
Has it led to greater compassion, even for yourself?
Open your hearts and receive this blessing, if you will:
May you tap into that well of deep compassion in you, which helps you to understand the suffering of others.
May you companion patients, families and colleagues today.
May your work be deeply satisfying.
May it be so!
by Rev. Dr. Michele Shields