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May 7, 2021

James Cook column: Offer encouragement

It was 2 p.m. when I received a call from a nurse on our women’s and pediatrics unit at Rowan Regional Medical Center. The nurse stated that the patient, Mrs. Jones, was upset and needed to talk with someone. I immediately went to the room.
When I entered the room, Mrs. Jones was by herself, lying in bed, fists clinched and her face red. I could see anger in her facial expression. I introduced myself and asked if I could pull up a chair beside her bed.
She said, “Yes, I just need to talk to someone. I have just been diagnosed with cancer again! A different kind of cancer than what I had 20 years ago! I am so angry!”
“I can’t believe this has happened to me again. I survived 20 years, two children, beat one cancer, and now I am faced with it again. I don’t understand. I don’t know what God is trying to tell me, and I am just angry that this happened. I don’t know what to do. I am so glad you are here, and I am sorry for being so angry.”
I replied, “No need to apologize. You have a right to be angry.”
Mrs. Jones slammed her hands down on the bedrail with frustration. I reached out to hold her hand as her hand hit the rail once again. She began to cry with fear, confusion, and anger.
I told her, “I cannot understand fully what you are going through, but I am here with you.”
There was silence for a moment.
“I feel I am out in the middle of the ocean in a dinghy, not knowing what direction the current will take me,” she finally said.
“I can tell you this, Mrs. Jones,” I said. “You are not alone in the dinghy, God is with you and right now so am I.”
We began to talk about how she dealt with her cancer the first time. Over the next hour, she shared her strengths and reflected on her path of recovery. She began to realize and accept what she had to do once again. We talked where she felt God’s support when she went through her first course of chemotherapy.
She shared with me that she had a friend who supported her and encouraged her. I asked her if she wanted me to call her friend, but Mrs. Jones said she already had. In the midst of her anger and acceptance, she realized that she was no longer alone. We prayed together and we both felt a sense of relief and peace.
We can turn on the television or radio and be dismayed at all that is happening to us, our economy and its impact upon all of us. Some of us may be faced with such a diagnosis as Mrs. Jones or the possibility of losing our job, or have lost our job or home.
We are all in need of encouragement. Who will you encourage today?
It is about going through the pain together. It is amazing that sometimes those who appreciate life the most are those who have experienced the most pain.
Sometimes we are called to encourage people we don’t know, but we are all in the same race and sometimes in the dinghy. Sometimes you grasp life with both hands. Other times life grabs you by the neck, or trips you up and takes you down. We lose sight of our responsibilities and resources around us. It may be a broken relationship, death of a loved one, depression, recovering from an addiction or fear of the unknown.
In his book, “11 Most Indispensable Relationships You Can’t Be Without,” Leonard Sweet said: “We all need a Barnabas in our lives, a friend who encourages us.”
Who boosts your morale? Whose morale will you boost when your cup is running over?
I felt I was on holy ground with Mrs. Jones and though she did not realize it at the time, she was an encouragement to me.
God will encourage you.
Now ask yourself, who can I encourage today?
“You are the light of the world-like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see” (Matthew 5:14).
nnn
The Rev. James Cook is chaplain at Rowan Regional Medical Center.

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