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A Walk Down A Country Road, A Church In The Woods, A Lesson About Life

It was a day not unlike other days my wife and I have spent at our home in North Georgia. It was a bit warm, sunny and otherwise reasonably comfortable. The day itself was a bit special, because we were there to take a quiet weekend interlude to celebrate our birthdays. We were glad to have some much needed time together to get away from all the tumult of our everyday lives and basically just relax, to do some of the things that we wanted to do.

We decided to take one of our favorite walks, down a gravel county road, much of it by a river that is near our home. In order to extend the walk to make it five miles when we have the time--like we did today--we took an extra "loop" which goes to a small wooden church tucked deep in the woods.

The sign outside the church says it was founded in the latter part of the 19th century, but some of the gravestones are dated even before then. They still have services there every Sunday.

When we got to the church, we were drawn to a freshly dug grave in the cemetery.  On the top of the dirt was a beautiful bouquet of several dozen yellow roses. Like the turned dirt, these flowers were fresh and just opening, an indication that whoever rested there was only recently buried.

My wife and I started to wonder out loud: Who was this person? What happened to them? Apparently a woman, who loved her so much to have placed those beautiful flowers on her final resting place?

Many questions, and no answers. No name plate, no date of birth or death. Just the flowers on the grave.

For reasons that I will never understand, my wife and I had a few tears in our eyes. We had a prayer together that she didn't suffer in her death, that she had others to pray for her, that although she was missed, she hopefully will be remembered.

And then it struck me that so much of what we do as part of our every day lives is to care for those we rarely meet, many whom we never know.

I thought at that moment of the many colleagues, friends, and volunteers I work with every day. I thought of their commitment to our cause and our effort to reduce the burden and suffering from cancer for others. I thought about how we try to improve the quality of life of so many in their time of need. I thought about how many we touch every day who we will never know personally, and serve them in ways we can never measure. I thought about how much we hope we can bring with just a little bit of good into an otherwise difficult day.

Many of us run through our days without thinking too much about who we are and why we exist. In that moment, in that cemetery by that wooden church in the middle of nowhere, the answer to that question became just a bit clearer for my wife and me.

If you can find a place in your heart for someone you never met and never knew, then perhaps our humanity for each other hasn't been dissolved by all that is going on around us. If we can be touched by a stranger, then perhaps we are still able to touch those who look to us for help and guidance in their times of need. I know thousands of people-along with millions of volunteers--who do that every day.

Sandra and I spent our minutes by the church, then continued our walk. We didn't have much to say to each other for a while, but sensed that the moment in the cemetery told us a lot about who we are and who we aspire to be.

The comforting thought is that we are very grateful we are not alone.



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