This week I had the privilege of being invited to share my message with a group of adults with various neurological diseases at the Fairview MS Achievement Center’s (MSAC’s) day program in St. Paul, MN. I was invited by the staff chaplain, who had happened upon my book in a retail store, purchased it, and subsequently participated in the full-day Healing on Purpose which I conducted for The Center for Spirituality & Healing in April.
I was asked to provide a 60-minute, informal program to inspire the patients. I prepared for my time there, deciding what I would include in my comments and how I would involve those present. I had asked and been encouraged to bring copies of my book to sell at the end of our time together. While essential, my preparation gave way to serendipity and circumstance. What I experienced in the presence of these remarkable individuals was exceptional.
I arrived to find 40 people in wheelchairs. We set up in a circle, as I had planned. After quickly assessing that there would be no writing of the answers to my questions, I asked if all participants would be able to speak. The answer was “Yes.” And so began an amazing hour together.
After a brief introduction of myself and my story of the change that cancer brought to my life, I wanted to hear their voices – their stories. I asked each person to tell me their name, where they lived and some change that had occurred in their life. I asked that when they were finished they say, “Thank you for listening.” To which I would respond, “Thank you for sharing your story.” I also gave permission for anyone to pass if they did not want to speak. The next 35 minutes was filled with what can only be described as a time of attitude adjustment – mine, that is.
I have little or no first hand experience with people with Multiple Sclerosis, but this group taught me plenty. While their individual physical and cognitive limitations became quickly apparent, the positive attitude with which they unanimously shared their stories dramatically changed my perspective. A change in perspective is looking at the same thing from a different angle to develop a different relationship with it. Their’s were stories of triumph and tribulation, shared with tears and laughter. Without exception, the conclusion was the positive affirmation that life was worth living for each of them. Only one person passed.
The attention that was given to each other and to me was extraordinary. As I concluded my comments, I realized that I did not want to sell any books to this group. I wanted to gift them each a copy and that is what I did. Their gratitude was palpable, and the opportunity to talk to them individually as I signed their books was a life experience worth writing about. I was the one inspired.