by Greg Higgins
When I brought my wife and three children to the Midwestern portion of the USA in late 1999, I made judgments about the people in our new home state that turned out to be far from the truth. Coming from the south, I found the people in Illinois to be generally standoffish and somewhat uncaring — hardly the type of people I would have as true friends. Nonetheless, we settled into life in Romeoville, Illinois, just north of Joliet.
My immediate family had never before had to face a situation that involved serious illness or the risk of losing a life. That changed in late March 2007, when my wife went to the hospital for tests to investigate issues with her sight and hearing. The CT scan revealed anomalies in her brain, so the hospital sent her for an MRI. The MRI verified that there was a brain tumor.
The immediate shock of such an event on your life is indescribable. We were numb. How dare something like this turn our life upside down? How do we explain this to our three children — a boy of 13 and twin daughters age 10? Fortunately, the tumor was of a type that was treatable with surgery. My wife spent 8 days in the critical care unit to bring down the swelling in her brain, following which the tumor was successfully removed with surgery.
But what has amazed me is the concern and support that we received from our Illinois friends. My assumptions have been proven spectacularly wrong in the past month.
While my wife was hospitalized, I tried to manage the house and our three children on my own. Without exception, our friends offered their support to take our children to scouts, dance class, or whatever they could do to give me time to support my wife. They wanted to help give my children a semblance of a normal life while their mother was away.
Meals can be difficult when your family spends most of the evening at the hospital supporting a sick family member. Yet I don’t think we missed one meal, because our caring friends brought us more food than we could eat.
My wife is a teacher at the local high school. Her peers took up a collection, twice, to help us get through the immediate cash flow issues that come up during these tough times.
The overwhelming support from close friends, acquaintances, and even strangers, disproves my initial assumption about the people we see every day. They are caring and supportive, and bring to mind the best attributes of our humanity.
It has been said that true friends can be hard to find. They may just be waiting for the opportunity to step up and reveal themselves.