Humility

During fall 2008, I was unable to use my right hand for almost 6 weeks due to an injury. Most of the trouble stemmed from my thumb.  For almost a month I couldn’t even turn a doorknob. I had nerve pain.

My friend Ian, who was in treatment for cancer, invited me to stay with him at his parents’ house. That way we could help each other. “Come on over,” he said. “My parents are out of town and my sister is visiting. We have tons of space.”  I gratefully accepted his generous offer.

Ian was doing ok with all the treatments, but still faced challenges. During the day I worked as a reference librarian for Vancouver Public Library. In between patrons, I used to search the system for DVDs of movies and TV series for us to watch in the evenings. Strangers with Candy was a big hit.  It always made Ian laugh the most and the loudest.

One night we decided to make a steak dinner. Ian spent all afternoon slow roasting the potatoes. Once I arrived, we cooked up the steaks and sat down. I was so excited to eat this amazing meal, except that I couldn’t hold anything in my right hand.

I had a hard moment at this point. All of a sudden I was confronted with another thing I couldn’t do because of my hand. I wanted to eat my steak and my crispy slow-roasted potatoes, but I couldn’t figure out how to cut anything.

Ian noticed immediately. “Here,” he said, reaching for my plate. “Want me to cut that for you?”

His gesture touched me deeply, and mostly because he did it in a gentle, kind way. I felt relieved and grateful. Normally I would have felt frustrated at my inability to do such a small thing, even if it was temporary.

He slid my plate over, cut everything up, cracked a joke and passed it back with a smile. Ian used to always say, “I don’t understand why doctors don’t smile more. It doesn’t cost them anything and it makes me feel like a person. Such a simple thing.”

In honor of Ian Tapper, one of my greatest friends.

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