two sides to every story

empathy

A female teaching colleague has been diagnosed with cancer. As support, it was suggested that meals that could be frozen be gifted; or money to allow a cleaner to come in, once or twice, to help with the home, be donated.

We Flamingo Dancers, have been touched by more than one medical emergency over the years, and I lived through cervical cancer, as well as an eye tumour, so I guess I experienced instant empathy. I donated money towards a cleaner.

What surprised me was Minerva’s attitude. ” She earns big money, why should I give her anything!” Yes, she does earn a higher pay scale as an experienced senior teacher, and she may have income protection, but as I know, to suddenly go from a double income to a single income family can be devastating, plus medical costs are another burden.

As to the cleaner,  there is a husband and maybe the children are old enough to help out, but she needs emotional support and so do they. They are on a very exhausting journey with an unknown end; a little help, and it is “little”, is the least we can do. It is about all we can do, after all.

I think what shocked me most, is that it is an attitude that I would never have expected form Minerva, my erstwhile assistant, whom I would have tagged as “generous”, until now. Possibly, Minerva has more of an “us and them” attitude than I realised. To make a meal would cost less than $10, after all. People can be surprising, and always are when least expected!

To me, you give out to the world what you can and you often receive back. We are on a very tight budget as we are only a single income family these days, but I thought the $20 I gave; which let’s be honest will pay for about one hour of cleaning, was a tiny way of saying “we care” and more of a gift for me, than for our ill colleague.

I don’t believe in workplace gifts for birthdays or farewells. Have a morning tea, wish them well, but no crap clutter gifted please! Health issues are another matter.

Meals were donated to the family who lost their son to suicide and we received a very heartfelt letter of thanks from the Dad. In his words they were “blown away” by the caring, and the knowledge that we were there to support them, and their grieving sons for the long term.

Small things can mean a lot, and I repeat, often more of a gift for the giver than the receiver. I am sorry that Minerva hasn’t realised that, yet.

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14 thoughts on “two sides to every story

  1. I think you learn that after you experience it. When a tragedy happens, your emotions are just under the skin. You get stretched in all different ways that you couldn’t predict or prepare for. Small acts of kindness, inquiries on how you are doing, all of those are so important. Minerva just hasn’t experienced it yet.

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  2. I can sympathize a tiny bit with Minerva: if you’re struggling on an income that’s less than half of, say, an administrator’s; if during a bad period you barely have enough to cover groceries at the end of the month, you may resent being asked to give money to a person who in the past made quite a bit. But I agree with you wholeheartedly that when someone has something so uncertain and possibly fatal as cancer, everyone in the community should pitch in and help out. When my husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor, I was touched by the large numbers of people who offered to bring dinner, clean the house, or do respite care while I went out to shop and just take a breather. Later, when it was my turn to give, I did not hesitate. It really costs so little to do these things; I’d also rather know I did my best to help, rather than look back and feel bad about not doing more.

    Minerva is young, I take it? Sometimes younger people lack empathy and have to learn it the hard way, though age doesn’t excuse a hard heart. Maybe she’ll take an example from you some day.

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    • Minerva is my age – baby boomer. Also double income family and has way more money than I do. I think I was just taken about by how vocal she was. Maybe she has an issue with that particular teacher that I am unaware of.

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  3. as you know, I am in a similar situation, and am daily humbled by the generosity of the people in my life; I hardly feel deserving of it. I think a cleaner is a very wonderful act of kindness. Maybe Minerva will come around in time – hopefully she’ll learn the joy of giving because it indeed enriches your life.

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  4. I am very sorry to hear about your colleague’s diagnosis. I’ve had four colleague go through it and I know that every bit of support, spoken and unspoken, during the fight and after surviving, makes a big difference. Please stay well yourself. x

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