Two coffee cups with steam that is making a heart

Be Kind - Always

Last updated: March 2021

I’m told that quote is attributable to the late Catholic missionary – Mary Teresa Bojaxhiu, commonly known as Mother Teresa. She is now a Catholic Saint. What extraordinary words. What do they have to do with COPD?

What needs encouraging?

I was having coffee with a friend in town, “T.J.” (Thomas John) who also has COPD. He’s a little more advanced than me but I’m not far behind. He brought up Mother Teresa’s words when we were talking about “encouragement.” We were discussing encouragement specifically in the context of COPD. How can we encourage each other? I think much of it depends on what needs encouraging. Are we having a bad day? Has our breathing gotten worse?
Have we lost all desire to share stories - to eat – to socialize? What keeps some of us going and what stops others from trying?

The power of encouragement

I’m a big believer in encouragement. I got a lot of it as a kid from my family when it came to schoolwork, music (I’m a guitar player – first one in the family), cloudy days – a whole host of things where I wasn’t feeling particularly sure of myself about whatever it was I was trying to do. T.J. had been a tremendous athlete in high school and college and continued to play basketball for his company’s team. He said he and his teammates would “psyche each other up” before, during and after games. For those younger than 60, to psyche someone up was to encourage them with great enthusiasm. “If I was getting the right kind of encouragement, I could hit a shot from way downtown,” T.J told me, “And I would get nothin‘ but net.”

Lessons learned

If I’m honest, (I think I am), there are times when I’ve taken advantage of the kindness offered to me when I’m having a bad breathing day or an exacerbation or just a generally blah kinda day. “Oh yes...I’d love another glass of wine. You’ll get it for me? Aren’t you the sweetest!” “If you’d like to bring it here that would be terrific!” “No...I don’t mind if you want to fluff up that extra pillow.” I’m exaggerating a bit but...not too much.

What T.J and I agreed on before parting was that it has to be very difficult to see a loved one hampered by the effects of COPD. I’m not going to say "depressing" although there’s a good chance that it is. And yet, on the other side (and we both agreed) there are days we could use tons of encouragement and it doesn’t seem to be forthcoming.

I’m not sure why. I’d like to think of myself as showing appreciation. I’m pretty sure I do. And yet, I sometimes see “eye-rolling” when I’ve asked if someone could get me something. Not blatant, mind you but – it’s there. I’d like to think that I’ve followed Mother Teresa’s advice. I honestly think I have – even before I saw it written down. But we can all do better at being kinder. I know I can.

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