What Can you Do?

A guest blog entry by Kevin Ballantine (student, leukemia survivor/patient, world citizen)

Reprinted with permission by author from http://kballantine.wordpress.com/

Preface: I had a bone marrow biopsy over spring break that showed a few abnormal cells in my bone marrow.   It could have been lab error, so I flew home in late April to have a repeat procedure.   This one was much more clear – the leukemia was back.   We explored a few different options, including going straight into induction chemo and then to a transplant, or trying a new drug called Azacitidine (followed by a donor lymphocyte infusion). Unfortunately, we could only proceed to the DLI if the Azacitidine worked, and brought the leukemia cells under control.   After two cycles, all indications were that it wasn’t working.   On to plan B –  the induction chemo and transplant.   I’m currently at Kishwaukee Hospital, which I’ve written about before, and will be transferring to Mitchell Hospital at University of Chicago tomorrow.   I’ve already had the chemo, but we want to be on the safe side when it comes to possible infections and side effects associated with chemo (and go to a hospital that has staff on call 24/7 for any possible emergencies).

From the beginning, and especially more recently while breaking the recent news to friends, I’ve heard the same question repeated over and over.   At first I didn’t really know how to answer, but then I thought harder about what I can make out of this situation.

“Is there anything I can do for you?”

At first, I simply said thanks, but I can’t think of anything.   But then I came up with a different, slightly longer answer.

Remember that life is fleeting, and there are more important things than grudges or ill wishes.   Underneath our different skin colors, yarmulkes, head scarves, or crucifix necklaces, we’re still the same people.   We still want the same thing – for people to be nice to us.   All I ask of those who want to help me is this – treat your strangers as you would your best friends.   For all those who persecute others in the name of Jesus – remember what Jesus himself did.   He went out of his way to help those society refused to accept.   And remember – let he who is without sin cast the first stone.   For all those who instill terror in others in the name of Allah – I find it hard to believe that your path to paradise is paved with the bones of innocent non-believers.   If yours is truly the right path, let the rest of us rot in hell for eternity.   But in the meantime, let us improve the lives of others here on this Earth, because if we don’t then what kind of world are we leaving behind for those you hope to convert?   Do you really want to convert those who believe only in violence instead of helping the poor and needy of the world?

We are all forced to share the same planet it, like it or not.   And we are ALL responsible for that planet, for the sake of ourselves and our children.   Here we sit bickering about things like illegal aliens flowing into our country (and let’s face it – how many of us really want to do all those minimum-wage jobs that they fill?), while we have to spend more and more money cleaning up all these environmental disasters.   Some, like the BP spill, are caused by our infatuation with money (I hesitate to call it love, because that implies a healthy relationship, which this clearly is not).   Others, like Katrina, flooding across the US, more severe weather, and heat waves that drive up electrical bills, are most likely the result of our failure to pay any attention to “climate change”.  [I hesitate to call it global warming, because while overall the planet may be warming, its effects are less than warm in some places like DC, which received over 5 feet of snow in one month].

And then there’s the war(s).   We have pumped over 1 TRILLION dollars into fighting a war in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past 10 years, and to what end?   Democracy is a noble cause, but in reality I believe it’s more about egos.   We were insulted and must fight back.   And now that we’re in a war, we can’t back out until we win.   But we can’t always be the world police, and we must remember that.   The world civilization survived for thousands of years without the United States acting as the highest authority, and I’m pretty sure that it can continue to do so.   If we’re asked for help, sure we can respond.   But we don’t need to save every country that is oppressing its people.   And if we took that $1,000,000,000,000 (1 trillion) and pumped it back into the economy (or maybe something like MEDICAL RESEARCH), we might actually get some return on it (instead of access to oil that we need to be weaned off of anyway).

So if you want to do something for me, here’s what you can do.   Be nice to those you encounter, don’t hold grudges, and please – hold your government accountable.   Get involved, make your voice heard.   Don’t just let these egotistical people trample on your wants, needs, and beliefs simply because they want to remain in office (but before you voice your beliefs, be sure about why you believe them – don’t just believe something because you’re told to, research it yourself and come to your own conclusions.   Independent thought is the backbone of an intelligent society, and is what separates us from the mob mentality).

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” – Thomas Jefferson

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8 thoughts on “What Can you Do?

  1. I can tell you wrote this from your heart. Your response to the question can I do anything for you is very selfless. America is a very egotistical coutry and the sad but real truth is most people aren’t willing to put the money into medical research unless they or someone they know has experienced a problem. People in high places are also guilty of this. I believe our societies love of money needs to end, and our love for living needs to begin. Like you said appreciate everyday.

  2. America is the land of immigrants, we are all descendants from other countries but that should not be something to tear us apart. If anything, it should be our common ground that brings us even closer together. Our differences are what makes us the United States of America, diversity is what brings people from all over the world here. The American dream is what people strive for, the idea that anyone, from anywhere, any race, and any religion can become someone. To judge a group based on the actions of a select few goes against everything this nation is supposed to stand for. While it is human nature to feel fear towards a group immediately after such a massive terrorist attack (September 11, 2001), it is our conscious responsibility as citizens of the world to not judge all middle easterners or Muslims and assume that they would all act out in this way or that Islam teaches terrorism. It’s all in the Golden Rule: treat others as you would like to be treated.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this post. I completely agree that our country has become so preocupied with irrelevent topics and incompitent people. Our country was founded on the ideas of our fathers and promoting equality. So many have come to America to seek a better life for their families. Due to so many decieving people, it is hard for our country to trust the government like we once did. With all the problems dealing with the war, so many forget that each day we are there, people did, mostly young men. The quickest way for our country to start becoming more unified again and start practicing the laws our father’s put in place for us is to get us out of the war. Come to some kind of agreement or something, there has to be an alternative to war. It is really dividing our country and killing many loved ones. I believe our country really needs to step back and look what we have become. We have evolved in many ways, but have taken many steps backwards as well.

  4. I really enjoyed reading your piece. Having dealt with something very similar, I know how it changes your view of the world and life in general. I agree 100% about how we should go about our daily life. As I walk down the halls of school, work, or even the grocery store I smile, and sometimes give a friendly hello to others because I believe a smile is contagious. Often times in life most issues and hatred arise because one feels alone. So why not smile and show our neighbors “we are here with you”. As for Muslims I agree with the last comment left. First off not being Muslim myself, I live in a heavily Muslim populated community and have come to learn a bit about it. In this world we have the fanatics. The fanatical Catholics that burn down abortion clinics in the name of god, parents that kill their children so they can be ”saved”, these people are not the ones that represent the entire catholic community nor would I want them to be. Everyone has fanatical followers and those are the terrorists. We should not hold this against all Muslims or Middle Easterners for that matter because Muslims are not just Middle Easterners but Japanese/Asian, African and European. Many of the people that have come here do so because they do not agree with the stringent rules the government has put forth in the name of Allah. Plus they do not try to convert you nor do others have to convert even after marriage. I know many interracial and inter-religious marriages where they have and have not converted. The ones that have chosen to do so, do because once they learn more about the religion it suites them. I myself being Catholic believe that everyone needs to have faith, faith in one another and faith in life. To me religion is about having faith in a higher power something to turn to. Pardon my feminine analogy but I look at religion like a pair of jeans; Just because you find a pair that fits great, feels great, and gives you this happy confidence booster of “I can take on the world”, doesn’t mean that type fits everyone like that. I do truly believe in all paths to god. I will continue on spreading our common way of treating others as though they are my dearest friends, and I will pray for your strength to continue on with this battle and hopefully defeat it. 

  5. This post just brought tears to my eyes. I am sorry to hear about your sickness and hope that the treatments are working for you. Unfortunately, there are so many people in the same exact position as you are. Last year, a very close family friend was dying from lung cancer, and so many people tried to reach out and help and he just didn’t want any help. He felt less of a man by asking others to do things for him. It was really sad, and I wish he would have asked for help along the way. Anyway, I really find it touching that when asked you tell people that you want them to treat everyone with kindness and respect. It is so sad to think about how many people do not do that, and only think of themselves. I wish you luck with everything and will think about this post every time someone asks me if there is anything they can do for me, or anyone for that matter.

  6. I’m so sorry to hear about your sickness. I hope that since it has been a year since the post that things are much better.

    I was always taught just that. “Be nice to those you encounter, don’t hold grudges” Personally, it its just something that makes my life much easier. I always approach each person with the thought that they are kind. Several times in relationships, I’ve even given the person a second chance because I believe that with holding grudges and not believing in the good of people that I will only make myself much more miserable.

    During a recent and unfortunate argument with my best friend. He made me realize that there are things in life that I cannot change but if I continue to think and hold them close to my heart then I will only cause my heart more pain. People need to think about the good times and remember the people that mean the world to you. Don’t think about the “what if” so much. If you think about that too much then the present will slip through your fingers.

  7. I strongly agree with Kevin’s post. Everything he mentions is very true, especially the fact that the last ten years of war with Iraq and Afghanistan have cost so much money and still have not achieved the expected results. I believe that this is a strong topic to apply Mills’ Sociological Imagination. The United States should first understand and respect cultural diversity, before making an intervention in a foreign country. There are many contradictions involving this war. For example, in 1953, the CIA removed the democratically elected prime minister in Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh, for wanting to claim Iranian oil for Iranians. Then, the U.S. supported the monarchical dictator. Due to this type of ambiguities from the government, many Americans don’t support the war, because those expenses could be rather spent in the national economic recovery.

  8. As someone who has lost a family member just two years ago, the intended kindness of others is still quite fresh in my mind. “Is there anything you need? What can I do for you? We’re here if you need anything.” Those were all things we heard from family and friends during our grieving process. Oftentimes, I was too grief-stricken to say anything, but I was always thinking along the lines of: just tell everyone you love how much you care about them while they can still hear you. Life is short, too short. Things change, and we have to adapt. You have to fight like hell to survive and you better make sure that you have people in your life that know how much you appreciate them.

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