My friend Kate is pushing my grocery cart for me. And she is doing this while brandishing a Christmas wreath I’ve chosen to buy. It’s looped over her right forearm, like a medieval shield, as she does battle with the pre-Thanksgiving shoppers. She’s a tiny formidable force in Whole Foods, tooling down the aisles like my own personal Sherpa—clearing the way so no one jostles me. And yes, in case you’re wondering, she does carry groceries to the car.
Everyone needs a Kate. Kate is a giver. Three weeks post-surgery, I am so thankful for the givers in my life. Fitting, as today is Thanksgiving in the States.
My givers, over the past several weeks, have done everything from helping me dress myself to walking my dog. I texted Kate, days after surgery: “It’s humbling when you cannot put on your own underwear.” Her response was pure giver: “I have no problem helping people put on their underwear.” How many people in your life would say that to you? And yes, I’m laughing as I type that. I realize it’s an odd sort of litmus test. Perhaps best reserved for your best loved.
My sister showed up to help me at my most helpless, traveling from another state. She put on my socks, held my towel, watched me cry the first time I saw how I looked post-surgery and told me it was going to be alright.
Another friend set up a meal schedule and my angel pals fed us for two weeks. Their healthy meals were a godsend when my body craved protein and homemade anything. They dropped off meals again and again, watching me go from laying on the medical recliner with ice packs to shuffling to the door and blowing them a kiss.
I got flowers and beautiful cards from friends around the world, from England, to Los Angeles, to Washington, D.C. And it humbled me, all that love.
As I’ve grown older and wiser, I have come to value the people who show up. They don’t just call to express concern or text a get-well wish. Instead, they show up in a very real way. They help you leap the hurdles, from pouring a glass of water from a pitcher you can’t yet lift, to making sure your underwear is washed and on your body. And those that can’t physically be there can still show up. A good friend sent me a lovely post-op package with all the things I’d need, from dry shampoo to a lip balm. I felt it was a hug from him.
My mother used to say that there is no “convenient” time to give. She emphasized that giving was not about my schedule and comfort, but about what my loved ones needed when they needed it. And she did not take kindly to excuses for not showing up for those I loved. This grounding made me all the more grateful to loved ones who made the time to show up for me over the past few weeks. They’re all busy. They work. They have families. They have their own challenges. And yet, they helped me face my challenge.
My divorce allowed me the first real opportunity to see who showed up in life for me. And this surgery did the same. My tribe may be varied and located all over the world, but they’re gems. They’re givers. They tell me they feel the same about me, but having been the recipient of so much love I am determined to be even better about providing it when others need it. Who would have thought a pot of soup or grocery errands could mean so much?
This week, as we celebrate what we’re thankful for here in the U.S., I hope you do the same regardless of where you sit in the world. Think about who your givers are. Reach out. Brandish a Christmas wreath, if you have to. Maybe be a little selective about who you help with underwear. (I mean, really.)
But let’s give. I intend to give early and often this holiday season. Because, as it turns out, givers are a tribe like few others. A tribe you must earn? Yes.
But the best things in life usually are.