My sister-in-law, Judy Perez, is battling Stage 4 pancreatic cancer and has been for over four years. She just started a cycle of compassionate care treatment at MD Anderson. Life has been especially tough for her and my brother, Julio Perez, these last several months. They have dealt with physical pain, emotional highs and lows, and spiritual fatigue and renewal.
Most of her treatments to date have been administered at her hometown of Fort Worth, Texas; which made it difficult for me and my family to help during tough days. Since this current treatment is being administered here in Houston, I and my family can be more useful to my brother and Judy. Granted, our aid is limited to laundry, food runs, errands, and the occasional listening ear; however, it does not take much observation to realize every little bit helps for families in the thick of the fight.
I have enjoyed being useful and I am proud of my wife and children for doing whatever needs to be done to make the lives of my brother and his wife a little easier. I have also been blessed to serve as a witness to the amazing acts of love demonstrated by both my brother and sister-in-law. While I have been able to increase my utility to them, I can see the pain and strife in my brother’s eyes and body language knowing his usefulness to his wife has changed dramatically. He helps her eat. He shifts her pillows. He helps Judy communicate to the doctors. He is a running medical log of her treatments, procedures, medications, and vitals. He posts and texts updates to friends and family on her behalf. He keeps faith and hope anchored to their lives. So, although he is still very useful to Judy, he is so in different ways and for different reasons.
These past couple of weeks have challenged me to ask and reflect on the following question:
“How am I being useful?”
What does my wife need and want to help handle our household? What do my son and three daughters seek when looking up for help? What can I do for my mom and dad from afar? How can I benefit the community?
The question can also be applied to work. How can I better serve my employees? What utility do I bring to this meeting? Of what use am I to the company? How can I help progress our business unit’s goals? How can I help my team succeed? How can I help the client?
The mainstream message these days is oftentimes sensationally negative and imbalanced because people love to read and watch people fall or make mistakes or argue or speak illogically. We get sucked into the vitriol and constant news feeds about things that have no use to us. We binge watch show after show in the spirit of downtime.
We all deserve “me” time and downtime and R&R, but useless things make us less useful. I for one need to cut back on useless activities and engage in more useful endeavors. I wonder what our world would look like if we all just tried to be more useful.