Editor's note: In our holiday series "The Gift of Generosity," the Herald-Leader is inviting readers and writers to share the story of how they were helped during a time of need. Perhaps it will inspire you to give of yourself this holiday season. The first essay is by Kerry Schneider, 53, a Lexington resident. Look for more throughout December.
There are angels among us. I know this is true, because only angels could have taught me so much about how to care for others this past year.
Their generous instruction began on the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer. That was the day I tried to fly "with only one wing" by thinking my disease was only about me. However, my angels spoke clearly to me, saying, "Whatever happens, we will be with you."
Their names began with things like cousin, aunt, daughter, friend, doctor, husband and even stranger.
What their generosity taught me was that we can all learn to receive life's blessings even if they come in the midst of hardship, come from sources we didn't know existed, and come when we don't think we are worthy of such love.
The first thing the angels taught me was to never hesitate to send cards. I received cards that just kept coming and coming, sometimes from people I had never met.
When I didn't have the energy to talk on the phone or greet someone at the door, I still got a boost when people took the time to send me a card signed by them. I could feel the transfer of love each time I opened a new one. Now I know that the energy used to select cards gets passed on to the receiver and can be consumed for some powerful healing.
The angels also taught me that you cannot only show up with prepared meals, but you can even come and prepare meals at someone's house for them. Can you believe there are angels who will nurture you with nutrition-filled love while you recover from surgery and/or chemotherapy treatments?
I never thought of going to someone's house to prepare food. It fills the home with so much love and energy and light. As you sit and watch, you can feel your burden getting lighter. Home-cooked or not, the gift of food that has been delivered to your home is another one filled with tremendous healing power.
The last thing the angels taught me was to share my story. Whether I sat at dinner with friends or wore a pink ribbon to the grocery store, people never hesitated to ask me what was going on in my battle with cancer. I learned to talk about what was happening in my life whenever asked.
And that led to good things: learning about others who have weathered similar storms, learning about Web sites and excellent doctors who would impart needed information, learning that there is a tremendous community of people who want to allay your fears in the most compassionate and caring ways possible.
I could not believe the wealth of information I gained just by learning to be honest. How can we receive the healing from others if they don't know what we are going through?
The generosity of angels taught me that no matter what hardships we face, whether we know where the blessings will come from or not, we are all worthy of love. I learned that our burdens, when shared, give our families, friends and even perfect strangers the opportunity to explore the angel within. I found out that healing can come from cards, meals and even information.
Finally, I understood that, as the Italian writer Luciano de Creschenzo says, "We are each of us angels with only one wing. And we can only fly embracing each other."