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Chasing Hope: When Your Work is Just Staying Alive

October 10, 2020

Another Way for week of Oct. 9 2020

Chasing Hope: When Your Work is Just Staying Alive

Guest writer: Dennis Benson

Editor’s note: This week Dennis Benson wraps up Melodie Davis’s series on various aspects of “work.” Davis met Benson many years ago at a day long workshop on creativity when they both worked in the same general field—communicating Christian faith to a secular public. Benson has done radio interviews with hundreds of rock musicians such as John Lennon, Mick Fleetwood, and won many awards. He is also a former seminary professor, and author of 21 books.  

This story begins two years ago: I am very sick. The renal doctor is deadly serious. “Dennis, your kidneys are non-functioning. You must go into dialysis three days a week.” She pauses. “You are not a candidate for transplant. If you miss a week of treatment … you will die.”

Seagull at Lake Michigan

One of my weaknesses is that I am irrationally fearful of needles from a childhood hospital trauma. How does a chronically ill person maintain hope in light of such a diagnosis?

Here is how I try: using three R’s.

Routines: the practical. On the day of my four-hour dialysis, I get up at 7:00, eat my two cups of fresh fruit salad which my daughter freezes for me. I then apply a pain deadening salve to the arm where the cleansing needles go in. I cover the arm with a plastic wrap. Snatching my cane, I head for the door.

Ritual: connecting with my spiritual roots. Stepping out onto our porch, I survey the amazing vista: seasonal woods, and turbulent Lake Michigan. Gratitude floods me. I sing the first verse from “Of the Father’s love begotten” (adding in my second rendition: “Of the Mother’s love” to the ancient hymn). As I walk down the three steps to the driveway I take in this day, and I repeat the mantra from my friend, Fred Rogers: “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Won’t you be my neighbor?” As I walk to my car, I sing, ‘Zip-a-Dee, Do-Dah.’

Rite: The Holy. I arrive at the dialysis clinic 45 minutes early in order to meet with two people in the lobby who are taken in for treatment before my appointment: Gloria and Miguel. An oddity of this treatment center is that we are unable to speak with others during dialysis. The fourteen patients are anchored in chairs by the blood pressure cuff on one arm (for testing every thirty minutes). The other arm must not move since it has needles connected to a refrigerator-sized dialysis machine. It takes a pint of blood at a time, and removes impurities in it. Then it returns the blood (but only cleansing 15 percent of it).

The rite encounter is my most sacred moment. The Holy Spirit bonds us as we visit and deal with our fear, depression … and hope. This small circle of spiritual empathy keeps us going. It is the source of our hope.

Most of all, this contact forces us to focus on the needs of others. It enables us to escape from being self-selfish by empathizing with the need of others. So many people have chronic illnesses. It is often difficult for the healthy to understand.

However, those being treated are heroes who may bless you.

(©️ 9/19/20 by Dennis C. Benson. All future rights reserved.)


Dennis C. Benson is an award-winning media producer, former seminary professor, and author of 21 books. His daily writings can be found on his Facebook page.


What part of Dennis’ story inspires you most?

Who do you call a hero?

Surfing kite at Lake Michigan

Comment here, or write to me at or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  

  1. All of Dennis’ story inspires me, Melodie.

    Dennis you have an heroic attitude with a plan to walk gracefully through each day in spite of the tremendous challenges. I suspect the spiritual dimension of your life helps you hold on to hope – and to life. 🙂

    I’m also in awe of your productivity with media and award-winning books. Bravo, I say!

  2. The ups and downs of Dennis’ journey with dialysis are heroic. Thanks for your kind comments and encouragement for Dennis.

  3. Beverly P. Silver permalink

    Hi Melodie, My dear mother, Virginia, endured seven and a half yers with the dialysis routine. It was amazing. We too had a routine. I dont know if it included the rite but is had to have included prayer..and amazing patience and endurance . We had some friends who helped – Ed and Dot, and others too. I cant remember but part of the time I managed to either get her to the clinic or bring her home. It wiped her out for the rest of the evening but the next day was better. Here at SS has been a member of the clinic staff from the the last few years who had been one of the dialysis nurses. she was a blessing then and still is for many here at SS. (not involved in dialysis any more. Mothers experience has affected me over the years and I dont see how she did it! . Brave, but so hard to bear that routine for such a long time. I could not do it !

    • I think you left out the name of someone you meant to include in this sentence: ” Here at ___? SS has been a member of the clinic staff” (Someone at Sunnyside? Someone I know?) At any rate, I would have a horrible time with that dialysis routine also and if I knew your mother Virginia endured 7 1/2 years, I had certainly forgotten it. So that experience was very close to you also. Ed and Dot Rhodes–I do remember them! We got two lamps from Ed when he moved or died (not sure which) and I still use them in this very office/extra bedroom where I write. Thanks for your long note, I love all the stories people tell. And Dennis, which I didn’t quite get to say, is a master storyteller. He lives for it! Have a good weekend!

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