09/22/2014 05:17 pm ET Updated Nov 22, 2014

Planting Seeds and Reaping the Benefits

Written by Jan Cloninger

I should start by saying that I have recently been diagnosed with leukemia and am currently in the hospital receiving chemo and ultimately a stem cell transplant. So we're not talking days but rather weeks of isolation and treatment. But thank goodness for insurance, wonderful doctors, fantastic nurses, and one of the top cancer treatment centers in the country located with twenty minutes from my home. I plan on beating this.

When you get a diagnosis like this, life can't help but change. But with all the questions and concerns there has also been great gifts like an increased sense of clarity and the ability to see to the heart of people and what's really important in life.

So many people have been so kind and reached out in so many warm and supportive ways. I am grateful to each and every one. But because of the work with families I have dedicated the past five years of my life to, two stories really stand out for me right now. They are both about moms who have or are planting seeds and knowing the rewards they have or will reap.

First there is my neighbor, Kathy. Her oldest was 3 when they moved next door. He is now a sophomore in college. Her youngest is a freshman in high school. Ever since the boys were little, Kathy encouraged them to send thank you notes for every gift or gesture people extended to them. I tried doing that with my son when he was little but through the years I slacked off on the prodding and the notes stopped being sent. I always admired Kathy for her perseverance in keeping the boys writing and through the years have cherished receiving their many cards.

But nothing touched me more than the handwritten notes I received from both of them after checking into the hospital. Not only did they express their concern and eagerness to support me through this, what I saw behind the words were two young men who have learned about empathy, who recognized that I was dealing with a tough situation, who knew they had the ability to share their love and compassion and that their offering mattered.

I couldn't help but see how all those years of acknowledging and thanking people for thinking of them at birthdays and holidays laid the ground work for their level of insight and effort that they were making now.

Then there is Emily, my young friend and busy mother of a 2 ½-year-old who I adore. I was deeply touched when her son's drawing arrived in a decorated envelope. It was full of colors, well wishes, and stories he wanted to tell me (including about the new ladybug timer he got for when he gets time outs -- not that he'll need it, I'm sure he just wanted the timer and had to find a way to get his mom to buy it for him!).

It warmed my heart to know that Emily is planting the seeds of empathy and compassion with her son. He understands I am not feeling well and that his pictures make me feel better. What a lesson to teach a young child. It empowers them to see that they can make a difference in the world just by caring about someone else.

I have no doubt that Emily will continue to plant the seeds with her son and that Kathy feels very good about the results she is reaping from her years of persistence.

And, I am so grateful to be the beneficiary of both moms' efforts.

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