The yellow umbrella

June 13, 2017

U
woman with a yellow umbrella

Rain.

Not the kind rain kids like to run in and lovers like to walk in, but the unkind rain that kids run from and lovers shun. The hard-driving cold rain no one wants to be out in.

They were out in it.

A mother and her young daughter, alone, at a bus stop, arms wrapped each other, heads bowed against the wind and the water going through them like they weren’t even there.

A car drove by.

‘That’s so sad,’ the passenger said, looking out at the mother and daughter.

The driver said nothing.

Two blocks up the road, the car pulled into a Walgreen’s parking lot. The driver got out, went inside and returned carrying two umbrellas, one of them a kid-size yellow umbrella. A few minutes after that, the car was parked on a side street next to the bus stop. The driver got out, walked through the driving rain to the mother and daughter, handed them each an umbrella, turned and walked back to the car. Other than a squeal of delight from the child not a sound was heard, not a word was spoken.

The passenger’s name was Empathy. The driver’s name was Compassion.

Compassion was a caregiver.

We talk a lot about the caregiver.

We talk about oxygen masks, oxygen tanks, oxygen tubes, suction aspirators, nebulizers, blood pressure kits, catheters, glucose meters, insulin pumps, lancing devices, and blister packs.

Day after day.

We talk about cleaning, wiping, dressing, undressing, transferring, lotions, meds, cooking, shopping, and doctors.

Day after day.

We talk about anger, fear, frustration, the feeling of hopelessness, inadequacy and sleeping with one eye and both ears open.

Night after night.

The thing we don’t talk about is the thing that drives them – the difference between empathy and compassion. Look it up – you’ll find something like this; While empathy refers more generally to our ability to take the perspective of and feel the emotions of another person, compassion is when those feelings and thoughts include the desire to help.

Compassion is the caregiver.

Compassion is the kid that cried when Bambi’s mother died. Compassion is the kid that couldn’t kill a bug on the sidewalk, the kid that adopted the runt of the litter. Compassion is the person that attracts people with a need, financial, physical, even just the need for a good listener.

Compassion is the caregiver.

Compassion is not weakness. It takes perseverance to get up every morning knowing the challenges of the day will likely be more demanding than those of the day before and still move toward them. It takes loyalty to stand by the person who has become someone you no longer recognize and worse, no longer recognizes you. It takes the heart and soul of someone who hears someone else cry out in pain, feels their pain and wants, more than anything, to rid the world of pain. And it takes the impossible strength to hold the hand of someone you love while they move from this world to the next.

Compassion is the caregiver.

The one carrying the yellow umbrella through the rain.


By: William McDonald, Author of Old Friends (Endless Love)

Written by William McDonald
William McDonald is an Emmy Award winning writer and published author who, for more than 30 years, specialized in emotional communication in the broadcast industry. For several more years, he was a caregiver in assisted-living homes, memory-care homes and private homes, and it was there that he met many of the old friends who inspired these stories. He writes full time from his home in Colorado.

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1 Comment

  1. Beautiful! I started a charity several years ago and a yellow umbrella is our logo. The symbolism is so poignant. Thank you for capturing that so eloquently. http://www.outofthegraywa.org/

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