As a "people person", I thrive on company. When I returned home from hospital after surgery for breast cancer, I enjoyed a steady stream of visitors and phone calls. They helped me remain cheerful and optimistic. Many people marveled at how well I coped and complemented me on my positive attitude.
Meanwhile I became aware of a disturbing pattern to my emotions. During the day, I either had people to talk to, or I enjoyed a break between visitors. After supper, we were together as a family, sharing the events of the day, or perhaps playing a game. In between the visitors and suppertime however, there was an hour that I learned to dread. My younger son, returned home from college lectures, disappeared into his room to study or to work on the computer. My husband, Rob, headed for the kitchen, where he sorted out supper, fed the dogs and cat, and took care of the chores that usually fell to me. My friends were home with their families. The phone sat silent.
Around 6 every evening, I felt physically overtired, and my emotions were drained. I couldn't concentrate on a book or the television. I worked on my post-operative exercises, but somehow the pain was far worse than earlier in the day. Fear mocked at my faith, and I headed for the doldrums.
Ahead of me lay 33 daily treatments of radiation therapy, followed by a full year of chemotherapy. "Give us one year of your life and we'll give you your life back," the cheerful lady from the Cancer Association had assured me. One year--At 6pm in the evening, this seemed like an eternity. Besides, my surgeon didn't seem to be as optimistic. "I wish this had been found two years ago," he said on one occasion. "Then maybe we could have caught it in time." He obviously didn't think much of my chances.
Earlier on in the day, I could snap myself away from negative thoughts. At 6 pm, they seemed so real, and I battled to overcome the blues. Lord help me to be rise above these times, I prayed. One day, just before 6pm, Sonia, my husband's secretary, arrived at the house. She carried a large, brightly decorated pink cardboard box, full of small parcels all individually wrapped. They came from members of our congregation. Each small gift, covered in pretty wrapping paper, included a Scripture verse and a small message of love to me. Stuck on the outside, an artistic label proclaimed, "The Blues Box. Take one daily at 6pm."
Sonia explained that she started collecting the gifts the day of my operation. She intended to call it a "Love Box', and selected pink as a cheerful color. When I told her about my daily attack of the blues, she decided to rename it The Blues Box although it was already pink.
Every day, for the next few weeks, I looked forward to that time of day. In the quiet of the early evening, I would choose one package, read the enclosed Scripture and message, and tear open my daily dose of love. A small rubber image of a heart added to my stamp collection. A crossword puzzle, complete with a pencil stub, invited me to fill in the blank squares. I chuckled at the words of a fridge magnet, "I'd be unstoppable if only I could get started." A pretty pink candle flickered as I lit it and placed it on the table next to my bed, and I smiled as I dabbed the small perfume stick on the inside of my wrists. So many gifts, each one small in itself, but all passing on the same message: "We love you. We believe in you." With friends like this, how could I remain depressed?
For close on three months, I opened my early-evening package. It was more effective than any tonic. I thanked the Lord not only for the generosity of the givers, but also for the thought, love and prayer that went into each little present.
Several times since then, I have put together a Love Box myself for someone facing a prolonged time of trial. It is not easy to think of a selection of tiny, inexpensive items, but I am encouraged to work at it, as I remember the joy and encouragement I received from my Pink Blues Box all those years ago.