It takes all kinds of kindness

At Chai Lifeline Canada we have the honour of knowing some phenomenal people. In Their Own Words is an ongoing series on our blog in which we give space to them to share their experience, insights and wisdom.

The relationships that we build through our work can be reflected in the phrase “in tow” – as in we are towing them and their families along with our support and love. They in turn, tow us along with their wisdom and inspiration. This series, In Their Own Words, or #InTOW, shines a light on all of it.

This #InTow instalment features a reflection from a former Chai Lifeline client offering wisdom gained from experience with gratitude to be able to help someone else going through cancer the way so many others helped her and her family.


Fourteen years ago, on Yom Kippur, I discovered a lump that ultimately turned out to be breast cancer. Of course, that is when we recite the Unetaneh Tokef prayer: “Who shall live and who shall die…”

Ever since, that prayer has brought tears to my eyes; they are tears of gratitude. They are tears that come at every school performance, every milestone, and every birthday. I feel I am living on “gifted” time. I am grateful to still be here. I am grateful to see the people my children are becoming.

I am grateful when I can help someone else going through cancer the way so many others helped me and my family. Sometimes we don’t know what to do or what to say when we find out someone is sick. There is no one size fits all answer. For me, the stress of my diagnosis was compounded by the fact that I had a 3 year old and a 9 month old to care for; a challenge under ideal circumstances. How would my treatment, and my inability to properly care for them while recovering from surgeries and undergoing chemotherapy affect them in the short and long term?

As it turned out, those worries were misplaced, as my entire community rallied around me, my husband and our children. I remember the many acts of kindness bestowed upon us. Here is just a sampling: phone messages letting me know someone was thinking of me and with the sign off “you don’t have to call me back”, meals that were sent over many months while in treatment, weekly check ins from our (very busy) rabbi, handwritten cards in the mail, daily help with supper and bedtime, the friend who shopped at the grocery store for the odds and ends we needed, the preschool teacher who showed my child extra TLC that year at school, support from ECHO, L’Chaim, and of course the support of Chai Lifeline.

Most people know of Chai Lifeline’s important work as an organization that supports children and their families when a child in that family is facing serious illness. Not everyone is aware that they have a division, Penina’s Helping Hand that helps families when a parent is sick. For years we enjoyed Chai Lifeline’s support in the form of Chanukah parties, special events, outings, a big brother and more. We were able to give back when we “graduated”, including through our daughter’s Bat Mitzvah project, giving strength to families in the beginning and middle of their own journeys. Giving back in whatever form we choose, elevates the difficulties we have faced in our own journeys.

If another person feels seen and heard, supported, and perhaps less alone, that can make all the difference. Sometimes it’s as simple as listening and caring.

“I suspect that the most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention, and especially if it’s given from the heart. When people are talking, there’s no need to do anything but receive them. Just take them in. Listen to what they’re saying. Care about it. Most times caring about it is even more important than understanding it. Most of us don’t value ourselves or our love enough to know this.” 

Rachel Naomi Remen, author of Kitchen Table Wisdom