Gold sparkles on black background

How to Shine
Story 150

By Becky De Oliveira

From the moment my yellow slip-proof socks hit the sterile hospital hallway floor, I was in love! Strangely upbeat for a woman awaiting brain surgery just a couple of weeks before Christmas, I treated everything with unguarded enthusiasm, pointing to, say, a lone red tinsel garland clumsily affixed to the wall with genuine glee (“Love it!”). Before dawn, I was camped out at the nursing station, cutting out construction paper ornaments, eavesdropping on the nurses’ conversations and thanking the staff like I was a candidate for mayor.

I went from good to great as the days passed, marking my inaugural visit to the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center, where I would begin radiation and chemotherapy in a few days, with the observation that the facility was, “The warmest, most inviting Christmas wonderland ever.” And nothing against the Center, which is very nice and friendly, but come on! Who talks like that about anything? “Is she OK?” my husband asked the staff quietly while I busied myself forcing treats on passersby, proclaiming everyone who entered my room to be awesome, talking all night on the phone to friends in distant time zones, convincing a travel nurse to spring me out of the ICU to see photos of emotional support dogs.   

Steroid-induced euphoria. It lasted as long as the drugs did. Then I was back to the “real” me, who sleeps more and talks less than the ’roid queen did. But I hope at least a little of that was me — and I often find myself longing for it. Oh, the joy in feeling not one bit critical, in seeing only the good, and, best of all, in the freedom to tell another person how wonderful they are.

What stops me now? Take last Friday. At South Bend International Airport, there is a staff member who is so good at his job (boarding passengers) that I can only watch him with the same awe with which I gaze upon the ocean. I’ve observed him several times now as he manages the gate area, joking, fixing problems, arranging wheelchairs, dishing out compliments. This guy brings joy like golden sunshine does on a sub-zero day. 

When he scanned my boarding pass and said, “Becky! Sweetheart!” all I did was smile and say, “Thank you,” when I should have told him how much his presence matters, how he never fails to remind me that joy is contagious and spreads quickly wherever it finds a host. I should have grabbed the microphone and informed the whole airport that, just in case they’d somehow missed it, they were in the presence of greatness. Feel it, I should have said. Tell someone how amazing people are, how they shine. Better still, show them.