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Being Helpful

A fly on a fingerLast year over the weekend of October 1, there was a reunion for all of us who had worked at Media/Professional Insurance. I was hired to work there fresh out of law school in 1984.

During the course of the festivities two women approached me and said, “Kim is here and would like to talk with you.” I hadn’t seen or talked with Kim for years, but I had an idea of what she wanted to say.

Kim and I both started as underwriters at Media/Professional around the same time in the summer of 1984. Neither of us had worked as underwriters before, although Kim, who was around my parents’ age, worked as an insurance broker for a number of years and had dealt with my father when he was underwriter.

Media/Professional was a new start-up and didn’t provide any sort of training to new hires. We were given our manuals, a stack of files and instructed to work up our quotes for our supervisor’s review and approval. Kim and I became primary sounding boards and sources of advice for each other as we began to navigate the mysterious world of specialty insurance.

Later in the year Kim’s husband, Hollis, developed cancer and his deteriorating condition put her under a great deal of stress. I overheard her talking to others about it and felt bad for her, but didn’t know what to say, so I avoided the subject. One day Kim asked me if I could give her a ride to work as someone was picking her up from the office to take her to see Hollis at the hospital later in the day. I said I would be happy to as her house was pretty much on my way. During the ride over she gave me a rather frantic and complicated account of Hollis’s condition that I really didn’t follow as other thoughts about what I needed to do that day popped into my sleepy mind. When we got to the office Kim thanked me for the ride. I told her that I would be happy to give her a ride any time. It soon developed that I was picking Kim up every morning on the way to work during which she would give me a detailed report on Hollis’ deteriorating condition which I never would never fully comprehend. I would occasionally interject a sympathetic comment in an effort to do something to help this poor woman.

After several months Hollis died and Kim’s request for rides stopped. The years passed and we drifted apart. Then one day during the holidays I received a Christmas card from Kim. In it she simply wrote, “I will always be grateful for how helpful you were when Hollis was sick.” I was so stunned and flattered to see those words. I hadn’t really done very much and had felt so helpless as I listened to her recount her husband’s plight. We continued to exchange Christmas cards and every year she would write the same simple message of gratitude, which I didn’t feel I deserved, but which made me feel good nonetheless.

Kim eventually found me at the reunion. I was with my wife Melinda who I married on October 1, 2011, well after all this had occurred. When I introduced the two Kim said, “Jim was so helpful to me when Hollis was dying of cancer.” Kim’s generous comments definitely helped score some points with Melinda who is a nurse and who lost her mother to cancer in her twenties during the final stages of pregnancy with her son.

So often we can be more helpful to another even when we don't completely understand the situation, simply by listening sympathetically.

God continually presents us with such opportunities for corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

Jim Borelli