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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

“You Cannot Do a Kindness Too Soon” is True

Gratitude. So far this year, a day doesn’t go by when I don’t tear up with gratitude. 

You see, I always thought of myself as just an average guy who did a job, who tried, failed often, and tried again. I mean, I’m just a regular guy, nothing special, no super powers. I mean, I believe I have a face made for radio. I am the guy ushering you to your seat and not on stage in the spotlight. I sit atop the Bell Curve. That’s what I thought. Average guy. And I‘m okay with that. Then I became sick. 

My cancer is serious but it’s treatable and has a 75% rate for remission and cure. Of course that was not the number I wanted to hear, but it’s better than 50% or 25% or 0%.  So I will go with that. It’s not like I have a choice in the matter, right? And then I told people that I was sick.

Barre3 Ft. Thomas. 

That’s when the unexpected happened. The incredible outpouring of support in the forms of cards, emails, texts, visits, and gifts have been at times overwhelming and humbling. It was far more emotional than I ever thought. I have never felt such love and support. 

I have a great cheering section. I mean, how can I fail when I have this many people urging me on, sending me strength, lifting my spirits? And I know that I’m not alone in feeling that from this community. I have heard from others who have been sick or who are sick and they tell similar stories. I admit that I cry just about every day because I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the kindnesses shown. 

Medicine comes in many forms. The chemo is one form. But there is this other form of medicine - the social medicine. And it’s pretty potent. People often feel powerless in the face of a disease that has potential to be terminal. The average person doesn’t have the knowledge and ability to address the disease so they offer thoughts, prayers, food, gifts, visits, hugs, or help with chores. The intent is to express comfort, friendship, solidarity, love, and support. 

I discovered that I am on the prayer list of eight churches. That’s eight different denominations. Now I am not particularly religious, but that touched me to know that my name has been uttered in support in so many places. It’s humbling and touching. I cannot thank them enough for the encouragement and support. 

And then there is the food. So many brought meals. Let me tell you, there is no better feeling than to eat a meal that was prepared out of love. 

These forms of informal medicine are just as important as anything that takes place at the cancer center. Even though it buoys my spirit and brightens my day, I am a realist in that the medical tests and treatments are what’s really important. But going into a chemo treatment with a positive attitude and good cheer from a thousand people helps beyond measure. 

And with that comes gratitude born out of selfless and heartfelt actions. “Thank you” seems like such an inadequate phrase in this situation, but our language lacks a more specific, accurate, or poetic way to express the depth of gratitude that I have to those who has offered a hand, a meal, a gift, a chat, a hug, or prayers. It’s all good medicine and is just as important as the chemo treatments. 

It’s easy to become cynical, dark, and suspicious of our fellow humans if we just relied upon what we see on the news or read in the paper or online. But that is not who we are. That is not who you are. In truth, we are much better, much kinder, more generous. 

So if my eyes begin to leak or if my voice catches as I say “Thank you” please know that I mean “I love you for your support and for opening your heart.” I now sense a new depth to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words when he wrote, “You cannot do a kindness too soon because you never know how soon it will be too late.” Thank you. 


  1. NO ONE has brought more cheer and better spirits than you, Chuck Keller. We pray daily for you. We love you (and Mary Lou) with and without cancer.

  2. Wonderful post. My sister just began her journey, second round of chemo last week and your posts have been helpful in that circle. I look forward to giving you a hug in person at Bellevue!