Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Heightened awareness.

That's what I have...heightened awareness to others' hurts. Today I am thankful for empathy. I have a lot of it, and it certainly shapes the way I think and feel- every single day.
I've had people say things in emails and comments about my 'ability to connect' to others, or that "they feel like they know me", or that it seems I operate on a 'different plane than some' as I go through life.
I write this not to be boastful in any way, however, there is a truth to those remarks. I am learning that I can't necessarily change that fact about me. Based on particular experiences in my life, I have been shaped and molded a certain way...and I continue to grow and change because of people and events around me.
I have received hundreds of emails in the past year alone, many of which have asked me for advice or help or prayer for a person's hurting soul. These emails have touched me...they have impacted me, and they have brought tears and sorrow and sometimes joy as well. Many of you have written very personal letters about your own struggles with grief, heartache, and questions of faith.
One night after reading such an email I said to Chip, "I think it's time for me to change my story at my Nitty.Gritty. blog. People are sending me emails and links and some of these stories are heartbreaking! I've 'typecasted' myself too much...they think I can fix their problems or cure their friend's grief."
I am realizing there may be more truth to that than I thought. It's not really a joke. I do have more empathy to people's hurts and grief in life. That's what happens when you live through your own grief- or any other experiences in life. It makes you more aware of people and circumstances that happen to others in similar events.
Take an example from just a couple of days ago. As my homepage loaded when I clicked on my computer, one of the first headlines I noticed was 'bus crashes in Alabama, at least two dead'. I couldn't help but click on the link and read more of the story. My heart started to throb and ache for the victims and their families who were just beginning to piece together some unbelievable life-changing realities and hurts at that time. As I read the story and saw the pictures, it brought me back to a similar time in my life when I lived through a crash and tragedy and disbelief that life can go from sunny and carefree, to shattered and painful in an instant. I began to hurt for the mothers whose kids died on the scene. Those families will be having funerals in place of a Thanksgiving meal together. Their lives suddenly took a new and painful direction.
And because of my own experiences, I could feel for their hurt and relate to some of what they are living through at this time. That's why I can say I have 'heightened awareness'. It's not something you just decide to get. It's a learned thing.
What does that have to do with being thankful? Well, I have learned {mainly} in the past year, that this empathy that I am developing and continues to grow in me is a good thing. It has helped me become a more compassionate and humble person. In the past, I probably would have hardly noticed a tragic headline. Now it is the first link I check out. I have been able to connect and touch base with people who have hurts and pains in their own life, and it makes me realize I am not alone in my grief. I have been able to share my experiences with others- who may or may not have similar stories as me, and we have learned from one another. My empathy has allowed me to see purpose or give reason to some of the pain I have had to bear. I can attribute much of the joy in my life to the empathy that grows in me. It is as though I have an 'internal scale' so to speak...I base the goodness and joy on the ordinary and opposed to how I used to live. I realize life can be difficult, and that realization makes me appreciate the day to day in a much more glorious state. {Are you following this logic...or am I crazy?!}
I think you can see it and understand it to a certain degree, even if your life hasn't been as overwhelmingly heartbreaking as my own. And that's a big reason why I share my story and myself with as many people as I can touch. I have made the decision to share my experiences, so that in turn you can live and learn through them, and hopefully develop things like compassion, empathy, humility and faith just by seeing or reading about me. I realize that my 'knowledge' can help others grow and learn- without having to actually 'live through' the real-life experience.
It's like watching 'Schindler's List' or a war documentary. We don't have to 'be there' to feel like we've been there. We can all be changed inside if we are open to 'feeling' another's hurt/joy and then be willing to take a part of their life and make it our own.
Today I am not only thankful for my empathy, but I have a challenge or opportunity for you (and me) to share someone's burden and grow a little bit more in this respect. It involves the Kaat family...the family I have linked you to in previous posts. Their infant son, Jaymun, was diagnosed at birth, back in July, with cancer. I can't imagine all that everyone in their family has had to live and learn and sacrifice because of this cancer. It came out of nowhere. They had no idea that Jaymun would be born with such a scary, life-threatening condition. It changed their lives from the moment they got the news.
This week they were hoping to be home (Jaymun and his mom Jennifer spend most of their life at Milwaukee Children's Hospital) for Thanksgiving, but those plans have changed. Instead, Jaymun continues to receive treatment and care in preparation for a bone marrow transplant. From the little bit I do know, I have heard this is a dangerous and painful treatment- but it is their one hope for his cure. The kicker? Jaymun's (young) older brother, Devon is a perfect match for the transplant, and will be the donor for Jaymun. I can try to feel what this family is feeling, and it hurts me deeply- even though I am not living it or seeing it firsthand. My heart and thoughts go out to though it were my own children involved.
So, if you can feel for them and some of what they must be going through, I am inviting you to play a small part in their lives. Not only can you send them well-wishes and thoughts at the website (, but you can take it one step further, and do something tangible for them. Especially for little Devon (he's 7 or 8, I forgot) as he will go through the surgery and then recover from his part in the bone marrow transplant for Jaymun. Jennifer has listed under the Nov. 20th journal portion of their site, a number of items and ideas that you can choose from, and then mail a note or package to Devon. She is hoping to give him lots of gifts as he recovers from his role in all of this. I would like to challenge us all a step more. Imagine the little bit older siblings...and younger ones as well (see the web for names, ages and pictures...there are 5 children in this family); imagine Jaymun's mom Jennifer and dad, Dave. They need our prayers and encouragment as well. Just the traveling back and forth to the hospital has been an added expense. The way they have had to depend on one another to be the dad or mom to the kids while they are away. They haven't been able to have many visitors because of Jaymun's weakened immune system- so they have had to be there for each other, and not been able to lean on many of their closest friends and family. I know it has been a struggle and a challenge in ways I will never know.
But I have seen their attitude and their strength. I was able to talk with Jennifer when she called me one day last week on her way top the hospital. She is hanging in there. She is being an encouragement to the staff and other parents and patients on Jaymun's floor. She is striving to be her very best- when life is handing her it's very worst. I have been in her shoes.
I am sharing all this with you in hopes that some of you will answer Jennifer's small request for goodies and encouragment for Devon. I think it would be an even more wonderful thing, if some of us (Nitty.Gritty. people) shared their burden and gave them a bit of joy in whatever way we feel led or are able to give. I think it would be neat to send some 'extra love and care' to all the members of the Kaat family. There are lots of ways to do this. Some of the little ones off the top of my head are to pick up and send various giftcards. I am thinking Starbuck's cards, or gas cards or a Target card. It doesn't have to be big, but they would definitely use it and it would be a way to show that we care and we're thinking about them. I know it is small, but as I said, I've been in their shoes so-to-speak, and it's the littlest things that speak volumes at times like this.
Here is the address: Jaymun Kaat Children’s Hospital, WI HOT Unit, 9000 W. Wisconsin Ave, Box 1997, Milwaukee, WI 53201.
In the meantime, be thankful for all that you have, and grateful for your health and well-being that you might oftentimes take for granted. You never know when you could be wearing different shoes.


Christal said...

Hi Jody,
Thank you so much for putting thanksgiving into perspective. ( Does that sound right?) These days I have found that everyone is into the hussle and bussle and dont stop to think about what they have to be thankful for. I for one have had ups and downs, I have been in others shoes. It is hard to think about the positive things WE ALL have, when the going gets tough. We may not be able to go out to a nice resturaunt because were broke, but there IS food in the house, we may not be driving the prettiest, newest on the market vehicle but we have a running var. There are ALWAYS people who have things we dont... EVERYONE OF US! But I have Christ and prayer and was raised to have faith... even the size of a mustard seed is all it takes. I know it is hard at times but when you stand FIRM ion that faith Jesus will NEVER leave you! Thank you again Jody for reminding me to be thankful even for the little things.... Okay I am done, cryng too much for this post as many do struck my heart in a HUGE WAY! Thanks you again and have a wonderful thanksgiving. Christal :)

Anonymous said...

Heightened awareness??? Or is something else evolving......Quote:

"Nothing good can come from narcissists. We learned all about them (as well as other personality disorders) and it's not a pretty picture. Underlying that overdone sense of entitlement and perfection, that pervasive self-grandiosity and self-importance, that need for admiration, is actually a deep sense of insecurity."

Maija said...

Ouch! Anonymous, that was kinda ill-spirited. Why is it that the meanest statements online are always done anonymously? Jody puts her opinion out there (with her name attached!), yet you critique it cowardly as "Anonymous." And, if that is a quote, what is the source?

Jody, thank you for reminding us the spirit of the season. I always kinda hate the holidays, as it's so much about buy, buy, consume, consume. Gross. But last night at the grocery store, I had the opportunity to give to Meals on Wheels, so several seniors will receive hot T-day meals, and that reminded me of how wonderful the holiday feelings can be - when you give (even if only a little) to help others, instead of spending that $$ on junk you don't need.

Maija said...

By the way, I just went & read the story about Jaymun's brother, Devon who will be donating his bone marrow - at only 7 years old! What a hero! It brought tears to my eyes, I cannot believe being that young & being the one chance that my baby brother has to stay alive. So touching. I most definitely will mail him a little suprise of some sort.

Jennifer said...

Hey, I'm happy to pop something small in the mail for Devon. It's so inspiring that he's being so brave for his little brother. I hope he gets bombarded with mail! Thanks for passing along his story Jody.

Anonymous -- very lame and mean-spirited comment. You clearly have never met Jody or her family.

Brown English Muffin said...

"You never know when you could be wearing different shoes."....this is oh so true!!! And we so quickly forget it.

Anonymous said...

I usually tell Jody to ignore anonymous negative comments because they are typically people who think they are smarter, and have great opinions to offer, when in fact they are gutless because they hide behind the "anonymous" label. Unfortunately there are also people who look at blogs on the web and try to find ones to leave negative comments. In using the theme of today's blog, we should have empathy for their being somewhat pathetic.
I think what Jody was trying to say was, that she seems to have evolved into having the gift of empathy. There are many gifts each individual has, some have some gifts some have others. Be it her circumstances in life or other factors she has this gift. Does she have every gift god offers, no. But it seems that this gift has evolved. The anonymous person also failed to read the whole story which the may focus is about a little boy in Milwaukee and what his family is going through and how his brother is giving him a chance. Anonymous does not seem to know the sense of what a true narcissist would write about.
Although I think "anonymous" is gutless, pathetic, and probably unintelligent (all the time thinking they are intellegent). I would not put these in print because I do not actually know the person.

-Jody's Husband Chip
I stand behind my comments by using my name

Jennifer said...

Hi Jody and all her readers,
You have all been so kind to us in your comments and your support. Jody has once again blessed me and my family with a post concerning our Jaymun. I never once asked her to do so, she wrote about us out of the goodness of her heart. In doing so, she has gained a friend forever in me!
We are real people, going through very real tough times. I hope that anyone who cowardly hides behind an anonymous post remembers that! (And you dare post a quote about "insecurity"? How insecure would you have to be to do something so petty and ruin a perfectly lovely gesture of goodwill??)
The rest of you, I thank you. Honestly, complete strangers have upheld me with their love and prayers throughout all of this. Thank you all so much for being compassionate people who care.

-Jennifer Kaat (Jaymun's Mom)

Anonymous said...

Dear Jody:

I'm sorry for what you endure sometimes via this blog. Just remember that when you are "out there" on the web, you are exposed to everything and everyone. I have some fear about that very thing so I choose to make my personal blog private and viewable by only those people I choose to have view it. Maybe that would be something to consider. Your reach might not be as wide, but your message would be just as profound. Hang in there and have a blessed holiday. Another "J" :)

Anonymous said...

That was a very powerful and heartfelt blog. Thank you Jody for helping to put things into perspective for all of us.

Anonymous said...

Jody, I admire your being so real and Jennifer as well in her blog re: her little son! I wept when I've read both your entries!!
It is a hurting, lost world and the older I get the more I realize that trouble "will" come...we don't have to look for it because it seems to find us. There is so much in my heart that I wish I could share here to encourage "you" as you've encouraged me (& so many others) over the weeks and months. My struggles seem miniascule by what you two ladies have had to endure. Thank you for your transparency! Thank heaven for a wonderful and awesome God who we can go to when we are in need!!! I only sign my name as anonymous because...I don't really have a great reason but "because"!! But I live somewhere west of Lake Michigan!

tammy said...

Hiya Jody~
Just wanted to wish you and your family a blessed Thanksgiving holiday today. One thing I am thankful for today is being led to your blog (through Whitney Ceraks). You have made me stop and think about things in life that I have always taken for granted or never really stopped to think in depth about. Oh, and you have shared some of your delicious recipes that I have used and appreciate those too! =) Thanks for sharing all you do, I like many others, do appreciate it.
~God Bless~
Tammy in Michigan