Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sharpened by Suffering

It was dog-a-palooza at my interview yesterday afternoon! Lots of pups, all cute as they could be and with hearts of gold. But today's story is about just one - "Ripley". Let me explain:

This was a whole different twist vis-a-vis this ongoing "hospital" situation. I drove to the Moffit Cancer Center on the campus of the University of South Florida, where I was supposed to photograph a volunteer who brings in his Golden retriever as a "therapy" dog on Wednesdays.

Talk about a cool scene. The lobby area was milling with patients, volunteers, staff, family and highly motivated canines.

My interest, Ripley, was making friends with a young couple to one side. I hadn't planned on interviewing any people, but I couldn't very well take their picture without asking permission... and then names... and then circumstance... and of course their story spilled out.

I'm not divulging any medical information except to say that the man, Brandyn, had been and would be there for the long haul. Ripley did his job and made him smile; I did mine and then told them this.. "I can't say 'Good luck', because I don't believe in it. But I will leave you with my prayer for God's rich blessings on your life..."

That was when Ripley led me over to the lady in the wheelchair. "I'm a ten-year survivor," she said, and then shared some of the details of her ongoing battle with a variety of cancers. You can see that Ripley makes friends easily and without pretense. I've got to tell you - the dog's good.

Rather than sadness, I left Moffit with a deep sense of gratitude and a feeling of blessing - because I had spent time with people who understand something about life on a can't-ignore level that many of us never begin to engage.

Too often, and regardless of faith-perspective, we pay lip-service to what it means to be authentically alive. We filter our experiences to the extent that we cut ourselves off from a quality of vitality and connectedness that sometimes only those who suffer ever begin to truly understand.

Suffering sharpens the soul - maybe reveals it - maybe unearths critical parts that otherwise never see the light of day....

I'm just thinking out loud this morning; I'm offering nothing conclusive here. But, I can tell you, I've certainly been sharpened some - if only by association - this week.

Peace - DEREK

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