by Maida Landau-Bruck
Riverdale, New York, USA
My husband, Alex, was diagnosed with leukemia in October 2000. When we received the news it felt as if the earth had opened and we were falling. Incredibly, my brother’s wife had been diagnosed with acute leukemia a few years before. Because of that we knew all too clearly the difficulties that lay ahead.
The doctor told me the diagnosis first, so we could tell Alex together. When Alex heard the news, he turned to me, took my hand, and said, “You’ll see, good things will come out of this.” Neither of us could have imagined how true his words would be.
Our boys go to school outside of our local area. Both boys had wonderful friends in their third and sixth grade classes, but we didn’t feel as connected to the school community as some parents did. We could not imagine how the administrators, teachers and parents of the school would open their hearts to us. They made us part of their community, and cared for us with grace.
In particular, MaryPaul and her husband Benjamin took it upon themselves to help us. MaryPaul remembered a time years before when her family had had troubles. She had promised herself that if she saw another family in distress, she would do something about it. She contacted other parents via e-mail, and organized dinner and shopping for us. Every other day for the first six months of my husband’s illness, cooked food and “incidentals” were delivered to our door. Parents and teachers shopped, cooked and delivered to us.
It’s hard to express how much these deliveries of dinners meant to us. They sustained us body and soul through long months. During most of that time Alex was hospitalized. Each day when food arrived the boys and I were amazed again that we were thought of and helped. The food became an anchor, helping to set the pace of our days as well as providing stability. As you may imagine, stability was in short supply for those eight months, so it was doubly appreciated.
Although I told these wonderful parents and teachers several times that we were coping, the food didn’t stop until I firmly asked them to discontinue it. Even then, they told us that they would resume any time we needed it.
Many times in my life I’ve wished that I had done more in a given situation. The actions of MaryPaul, Benjamin and the other parents and teachers overwhelmed us with their ability to translate caring into action.
In helping us, MaryPaul did something for the entire community — she gave others a vehicle by which they could contribute in a meaningful way. Many parents thanked me for allowing them to be part of a whole that was greater than the sum of its parts.
My boys and I had the extraordinary joy of seeing people at their best. I learned, and I hope they did too, not to underestimate the power of each individual act of kindness.