A 65-year-old swim teacher, Pam, was the official dog-sitter for Hans and Winnie while they were away. And we earned our keep by tending to the garden and washing the car.

While cleaning out the car, Pam came back and when I asked the usual “how are you?” she responded with an unusual “not very good.” I turned the radio off and asked her why. She had just heard news that her 12-year-old grandson was diagnosed with leukemia. Both of our eyes filled with tears and we spoke the rest of the conversations in sounds. Hmm. Ugh. Sigh.

I then shut myself in the car with the Armor-all and thought about how precious life is. Twelve-year-olds should only have to worry about making the all star team or finding the right locker to ask their crush out via note. I thought about how universal this feeling of compassion can be. I don’t know anything about Pam except that she teaches swim lessons and lives in a campervan. I do know that seeing her hurt made me want to weep with her. I wanted to tell her that I would plead with God to heal her grandson named Sam. I wanted to go to the hospital in Christchurch with her, if only to be the one to bring her family coffees and sandwiches. But all I could say was, “I’ll vacuum the house. Go ahead to the hospital.”


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