Friday, September 14, 2012


Right now, behind a locked door in my home while my kids are asleep, I am volunteering in secret.

A patient at my wife’s hospital is unable to afford cigarettes, and cannot roll her own. So, I am making smokes. It’s like a craft – I’ve gotten really good at it (I love crafts!). I can make one in under a minute, now, so in a day or two she will have lots. (Please note that I am making them on top of a fitness magazine. I like the irony).

It seems counter-intuitive, but when you’re dealing with a very serious, chronic illness I think it is cruel to simultaneously have a person try to quit smoking. One thing at a time is enough.

This brings me to another story about volunteers, doing good work like me.

When I arrived at hospital, my nurse Dave got me settled (after I rattled him with ideas about how I could commit suicide in my room). When he left, there was a knock at my partially ajar door. I opened it to a smartly dressed, older woman.

“Good afternoon. I’m Mary. I come most days to volunteer on the ward. I would be pleased to show you around and explain the rules.”

I padded out after her in my hospital slippers and scrubs. For the next half hour, Mary showed me about, and explained dos and don’ts. She seemed to know everyone and everything.

I thanked her profusely. She told me that she would be back again the next day, if her schedule wasn’t too full, and to feel free to ask her any questions I might have. Then she left to tidy up the TV room.

I saw her the next morning at breakfast. I was surprised she was there so early.

After breakfast, I saw her get medication, like everyone else.

A light bulb went on.

Mary may have been deluded, but what she did was actually very helpful.

I am still grateful that she was there, doing her “volunteer” work for all of us new patients.

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