It had been a busy couple of days. Much attention had come my way because of an illness I am fighting, COPD - Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Such was the landscape of these couple of days, being interviewed by the press, including television and print.

There I was, in living color on TV and in the newspapers with words and images, some of them mine, some of them the journalists, explaining how people with COPD handle our daily life. Perhaps my case was a bit more media-seductive because I am waiting for a double-lung transplant I am waiting for a double-lung transplant. It makes for a headline, if you catch my drift. Also, I am relatively young (49 years old) and I can speak in both official languages here in Montreal, Quebec.

As it happened, I received emails and phone calls and coincidentally had lunch with some girlfriends of mine who go back with me for about 25 years or more. We all hadn’t been together for a long, long time. It was a great lunch. I don’t have to explain how time stops for those we care about and love, and such was this lunch. A few of them had had no idea I was battling this illness to such a degree, but we did not focus on it. We just reminisced and laughed, throwing in some politics, religion, and whatever happened to who-knows-who.

Frankly, it was a lovely break from this almost non-stop focus on my health. It was just so joyful to have these friends around. And so I thought, this was the best part of the day. It wasn’t just the newspaper article or the television coverage that was aimed to educate people, but honestly, at some level, I felt like I had a voice again.

Later in the day, the very same day, a relatively new friend of mine came over for a coffee. We talked about the events of the day, the news conference and then we moved on, talking about our children. Ah, talking about our children. I was happy to tell her that neither of my children (20 and 21 years of age) had seen the newspaper article yet or the footage on television. I told her I was glad. I didn’t want them to be scared. I thought seeing my life in print and my battle being shown on television was not conducive to their sense of security. Protect the children. It seems to be the natural way of things.

Protect the children. It seems to be the natural way of things As we sat there and talked, the phone would ring, another email would come in and it got to the point where we were discussing life and death issues. I was calm. Really, I was. I was used to this. I had just given a speech and several interviews. I had my act together. And anyway, we were talking now about our children.

Then the doorbell rang. I opened the door and in front of me was a neighbor from down the street. She had a plant wrapped up with a card and she just put it in my arms. She said, “I saw you on television last night. You are so brave. Take good care…”I was stunned. I am sure I said “Thank you.” I walked back in with the plant and looked at the card…"Dear Melody, you are so courageous. Wishing you the best of health. Fondly…”

I broke down crying. Only a few years ago, this woman lost her son in a horrific way. I remembered the ambulance in front of her house. I remembered the days I saw her walk by. I felt so terrible for her. I could not imagine losing a child. It would be beyond imaginable in terms of pain and recovery. But I never really said anything to her all this time. She was the neighbor down the street whom I nodded to and said hello when she walked by, wondering how she was doing. But never asking. After all, I didn’t really know her. She was just the neighbor down the street.

And here I stood sobbing over this plant and this card with my friend who had just come over for coffee. Why? How am I courageous? This woman has lived through so much more upheaval than I could imagine. My friend wisely said, “I think she understands pain and she knows courage and she wanted you to know she cares. She has been there.”

She touched me so deeply in a place I didn’t even know I had The thing is, she “acted” on it. She did something. She came here and put this beautiful package in my arms and wished me well. She gave me a bundle of love and strength and tenderness and touched me so deeply, in such a place, a place I didn’t even know I had. She connected with me. She did the mitzvah of bikur cholim, of visiting and comforting those who are not well. She followed the commandment. My goodness, I think she followed more than one.

And as I sit here and write this, a sense of gratitude and awe seems to swirl around me. I am not sure how to thank her. I am not sure she will ever know how she changed my world with her kindness.

Just a neighbor down the street. Just someone who showed another human being what caring and kindness can do.

James Barrie, an author, once said, “Always be a little kinder than you have to…” He was right. Another friend gave me that quote, by the way.