Share Your Gum

My friend Amanda came to visit last month.  Amanda is a new friend—introduced to me by my husband who knew I would love her.  He was right.  Amanda has a story to tell about her daughter Khaleda who passed away in 2016 at the age of 14 after a battle with a lifelong illness.  I would love to tell her incredible life story but instead I’m going to pester Amanda to write a book about the entirely too short yet beautiful time they spent together as a family.  The synchronicity of events in this family’s story coupled with Amanda’s mama-bear tenacity and writing skills will shoot it to the top of the best-seller list.  I’m sure of it.

Now that I’ve peaked your interest, and with her permission,  I would like to share one piece of the story that has so greatly impacted me and how I look at tiny life happenings in such a different way:

One day Amanda and Khaleda were driving and Khaleda asked for a piece of gum.  Amanda apologized and let her know that the piece she was chewing was the last piece she had.

“Oh, that’s okay, I’ll just take that one,” Khaleda calmly requested.

As most of us would do, Amanda quickly squealed with horror… “Khaleda, NO, that’s disgusting.  You can’t chew my gum after I’ve chewed it.”

Khaleda was instantly quiet which immediately led my friend to analyze what was happening in her child’s mind.  Khaleda was not born to Amanda but came to her through adoption from Afghanistan.  Because of this, many times they found themselves grappling with before and after moments from her early life with her Afghan family to her later time with Amanda’s family.

Amanda quickly asked Khaleda to share more with her and her daughter proceeded to tell her that “sharing gum” was commonplace in her former life.  The gum would start with her oldest brother, pass to her other siblings and finally end with Khaleda.  Her mother would then collect the final chewed product and keep it in a ball that would be used for hair removal.

Stop for a second.  Read that again.

They shared the gum and then repurposed it.

It was normal and commonplace.  It was a treat.

When was the last time you considered a stick of gum a “treat?” When was the last time you chewed a piece for few minutes until the flavor was gone and then tossed it haphazardly in the trash without thinking about it and reached for a fresh replacement. How many different types of gum do we have access to at every grocery store we check out of?  Do I even need to approach the fact that we can also pick up a 20 pack of disposable razors and wouldn’t even dream of having to use “community gum” for hair removal?

The lessons in excess, gratitude and taking things for granted are epic in this story.

The thought of “sharing the gum” got me thinking about things we share with each other.  I imagine the gum was most flavorful with the first sibling who tasted it but was still enjoyed by the final child who chewed it.  It was passed down with a shared community that, even after I’ve processed this story for weeks, STILL gets me teary eyed.

Every time a person pops into my head time and time again I assume God is nudging me to reach out to them and check in.  If a story keeps popping into my head time and time again, many times I write about it.  Sometimes I share it here and sometimes I keep it for myself.

I could not shake this story…but I also couldn’t find the connection point for what I wanted to share about it.

Then a patient came to visit me.  I’ve seen this patient for many years. She’s middle aged and has worked as a custodian at a local business as long as I’ve known her. She walks to and from work every single day.  She doesn’t only walk to work…she walks everywhere she goes.  As far as I know, she’s never driven.  Every time she comes in she entertains me with pictures of her cat and stories of what is happening in her life.  She is a dream contact lens patient…compliant with proper care, never over-wears them and saves her extremely hard earned money to ensure that her health is handled properly before she spends on anything else. She fascinates me with her discipline and I smile each time I see her name on my schedule.

This year we started talking about a Peanuts cartoon.  We share a love of Charlie Brown and his gang and she walked me through an auditory storytelling of a few of her favorite Peanuts cartoons through the years.  One in particular got me cracking up and she said she thought she had the original cartoon at home.  I asked her to come by the office with it sometime so I could make a copy.

A few weeks later I came to the office and found this book in my mailbox.



The note that came with it reads…

Dear Dr. Susan,

When I was going through my Peanuts book to find the one we were talking about, I realized there were a lot of them that you would like…so I got you a copy of your own! (it’s actually two books in one).  I also put comments on notepapers marking each strip I thought you’d like.  Enjoy! 🙂 

Signed, your friend and patient. 

She wrote over 30 personal notes on these cartoons with her thoughts and laughs and insights.  I treasure this gift so much because it has such a personal touch.  I keep it in my car and whenever I have a second where I’m waiting to pick up kids I grab it and read the next note she wrote and why she thought I’d enjoy it.

The book is used, the cover is wrinkled and torn and some of the pages are marked up but I feel pure joy every time I see it.  I assume one day I’ll share it with someone else and pass the pages of notes along with it combined with some of my own so the next person can smile as much as I have with this simple treat.

I’ve been challenged with both of these stories to find simple, inexpensive ways to “Pass the gum” and repurpose something that seems like such a small thing but that can used over and over again.  I’m assuming I won’t literally share my gum since one of my children can’t even drink out of the same straw as someone else let alone chew someone else’s gum.  But you get the metaphor.

One of my favorite parts of writing these little stories is how many of you choose to reach out to me privately, and sometimes publicly with things that you were reminded of.  I have been inspired numerous times by these messages and I’m hopeful that if you have a way that you are “sharing you gum” with others you’ll share the idea with me.  I’m a firm believer that there are no original ideas and would love to steal some of yours so please message me and let me know what you do to share community and treats in small ways.

Oh, and if you’re curious to support the family that inspired this entire post, here a link to the facebook page for The Khaleda Run  

Amanda and her husband Mike have somehow channeled their tragedy into an amazing organization to give back.  The inaugural run was this past weekend and will become an annual event.

I hope to hear from all of you with your “gum sharing” ideas.


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