Helping Others With Chronic Illness

Reviewed by Phillip Waite, Ph.D.

I recently watched the movie Get Low. In the film, Robert Duvall plays a hermit who lives deep in the woods, isolated from everyone that matters to him. One day he walks into town and demands a "living funeral" for himself and along the way finds forgiveness and reconnects with friends and loved ones before his death. It is a beautifully told and touching story. I believe it also charts a path for each of us as we reach out beyond our comfort zone and help others with chronic illness.

We should all seek to be humble and selfless, putting others before ourselves. This is not a common trait in our modern times. In a world filled with the celebrity crazed "me" generation, to be altruistic and focus on the needs of those around us is really not the norm. It's too bad really. So much potential is wasted with self promotion and narcissistic behavior, resulting in missed opportunities for people to really make a difference in the lives of others. A recent NY Times article noted that one glaring trait of the younger generation is their "empathy deficit" and their detachment from the needs and concerns of others.

But there is hope! Among those with chronic illness there are many people that selflessly reach out, lift, inspire and heal. They are humble and empathetic, caring and understanding. I see this up close and personal every day in the community forums. There are so many individuals that just want to help others. Often they suffer with chronic illness themselves and through their experience they offer a treasure trove of wisdom and empathy that family or friends may not be able to or know how to offer. They don't seek attention or ask anything in return. They offer comfort, counsel, support and sympathy... all in measured doses. By sharing their story, they not only help others but find healing themselves in return. What an amazing lesson! It is inspiring when you think about it.

Looking beyond HealingWell, there are many role models that know what it means to selflessly seek to help others coping with the challenges of chronic illness. Getting low means being open to the needs of others and responding to them, sometimes by looking past one's own troubles and difficulties.

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