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I am humbled

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I have walked silently down the clean, wide hallways and looked at the original works of art donated by so many. A Robert Bateman, number 3 of only 20. Needlework. Mixed media. Oils and water colours.

The lounge, with TV, hundreds of books and just as many puzzles, quiet corners or comfy chairs gathered around coffee tables. The games room has a pool table, shuffle board, more games, tv, sofas, tables, a pot of coffee almost always, a kettle and tea bags or hot chocolate otherwise. Bread and toaster, milk in the fridge and cereal on the counter. There is a designated library and quiet room, tastefully appointed with low light and a peaceful atmosphere. A covered deck with recliners for outdoor relaxing or reading. The cafeteria opens three times a day and sets out snacks at other times. Amazingly, the place is staffed mostly by volunteers. Golden, every single one of them. Precious, kind, patient, supportive and knowledgeable.

I am talking about The Rotary Lodge in Kelowna, where cancer patients stay while undergoing radiation and other treatments. I am staying there now myself and if you only look at the surface you might think you are in a nice hotel. A nice hotel with super excellent rates and fabulous staff. But as you walk down the hallway and look at the art and more specifically, the engraved plaques outside each room, something might dawn on you.

Each room has a plaque that says “this room was made possible by …” and then the organization, business or individual is named. That’s when you realize that a community built this place. A community of people from all over this province and especially this area, worked hard and long to make this cancer lodge a reality. This place didn’t happen by accident. This place and every part of it happened because some citizen cared so much for another citizen, someone they had never met, that they acted. They raised funds. They got pledges. They opened their wallets. They lobbied. This Rotary Lodge was truly built by the people for the people. And when you stand in that hallway reading the plaque outside your door, you know. You know that you are the recipient of a great gift of humanity and that the best of your fellow humans is represented in this building and the comfort it gives to the many people who are in a fight for their lives.

To every Rotary club, business, group, and individual that took this lodge as their cause, thank you. Thank you more than I can say. To the volunteers who staff the place and the cleaning ladies who make it a sparkling refuge, thank you. To the kitchen staff putting on meals, bringing out trays of goodies and keeping the coffee pot full, thank you. To the people volunteering as drivers, the Masons, thank you.

Not just cancer patients stay there. As the helicopter brings traumatic medical cases to the hospital for emergency care their often shocked, frightened and bewildered partners end up at the lodge. Without fail someone approaches them, often someone there for treatment. Hi. How are you? Are you new here? What’s going on? Oh that’s horrible! Come over here and have some coffee, and here are some granola bars, come sit with us. The extension of human caring to another human in need is the number one product of the Rotary Lodge. It excels at this. It takes the prize. Its as if within those walls, faced with trauma and a frightening disease, we are free to be our very best selves. You find there a family of others who are also feeling sick, scared, exhausted and like their life was yanked out from under them. If the treatments heal your body, the Rotary Lodge and the staff and guests, will heal your soul.

I have to say how humbled and grateful I am. The people I have met there are shining examples of how small acts of kindness have expansive ripple effects. To every Rotary club, business, group, and individual that took this lodge as their cause, thank you. Thank you more than I can say. To the volunteers who staff the place and the cleaning ladies who make it a sparkling refuge, thank you. To the kitchen staff putting on meals, bringing out trays of goodies and keeping the coffee pot full, thank you. To the people volunteering as drivers, the Masons, thank you.

Having cancer, that has been no good. No good at all. But finding a tribe of your own at this fabulous facility, that’s been good. As good as it gets. It would not be right not to say thank you and give credit where credit is so gratefully due. If you feel that a charitable donation in your community is something you are moved to do, consider the Rotary Lodge in Kelowna. God forbid that you or anyone you know will ever need to be there. But in the sad event that they do need such shelter, thank god that it exists. Thank God.

Ramona Rizzi wrote this in July 2017 as she was undergoing radiation treatments at the Rotary Lodge in Kelowna