Weekly Photo Challenge: Community (In Hospital Waiting Rooms)

We are strangers, who become sisters. Drawn together by happenstance and necessity.  Not by blood lines alone.

Art Prize 2012 entry shown in the GR Public Museum

Art Prize 2012 entry shown in the GR Public Museum

We are different, so different, and yet, the same.  Our disease is the great equalizer.   For an hour every day we shed our street clothes and our pretenses, and slip into hospital gowns.  Faded blue.  Smelling of detergent.   At first, some of us cry.   Some pray.   Others are silent, heads down, scuttling into treatment rooms and back out to the parking lot.   In time, we look up, catch another woman’s eye and start to talk about ourselves, our children, the future, and whether we slept the night before.  Sometimes, we laugh, finding humor where others would not dare to look.   Sometimes, we linger, offering comfort and reassurance, and in turn, our own fears are eased.

Lean on Me.  Art Prize 2013 entry.

Lean on Me. Art Prize 2013 entry.

For the next few weeks, we meet in this clinical space filled with enormous pieces of high tech equipment that buzz and clang.  And despite the fact we are here, at a destination that none of us would have willingly chosen, we come to like the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, which offers us reassurance and hope.  And the staff who greet us by name and who are extraordinarily kind.   In turn, we learn to open our hearts to each other, even as we face the same uncertain future.   How we respond to this disease is a measure of who we are.  It will define us.  For some of us, our hearts will crack open with sadness and stay broken.  Others will heal.   Some will learn from this and others won’t, their minds and hearts sealed.  It is up to each one of us.

Art Prize 2012 Entry, Grand Rapids Art Museum

Andrea Kowch, “Sojourn,” Art Prize 2012 Entry, Grand Rapids Art Museum

When it is time to say goodbye, we hug and exchange phone numbers and emails.  We won’t forget this time together.  And the kindness we showed each other.    It is a measure of our humanity, our uniqueness and our strength.

And now questions for you:  Have you ever belonged to a community that was drawn together (no matter how briefly) by a common event?  Have you stayed in touch with those people?

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