When preparing an apartment for the arrival of a new guest, we don’t expect to find messages from those who previously stayed with us. But that is exactly what we recently found in Apartment 10 – a chain of encouragement and hope stretching across months and miles written in blue and black dry erase ink on the kitchen’s whiteboard. Hearts, smiley faces, expressions of love for those who came before and for those who will follow in the future were carefully preserved and written around by every new addition. “Stay strong,” a message from Hoytville, Ohio reads, “and God bless.” Others express greetings from a particular place. A few share names.
Regardless of the form each message takes, every one brings into the apartment an almost overwhelming sense of community – of connection to a larger network of transplant patients and caregivers who know what it is like to navigate the tough road of waiting for, and recovering from, transplantation.
So much of what we strive to do at Transplant House of Cleveland is in service of fostering a sense of community and support for those who stay with us, whether for a night, a week or two, months, or even years. For staff and volunteers, this means preparing weekly dinners, offering morning coffee and a home-cooked light breakfast, hosting support events, organizing neighborhood walks with Benson, and addressing the needs of guests with friendliness and warmth. The messages left in Apartment 10 serve as an important reminder for staff of how our guests shape the community of Transplant House too. Their messages are testaments of strength and hope from those who stayed with us to those who follow in their steps on the “one day at a time journey” of transplantation. And their words are left for future residents that the authors will likely never meet, but whom they will nevertheless hearten and inspire.
These notes from our guests are powerful proof to us all of the basic human need for – and the immeasurable power of – connection and mutual understanding. To recognize, and in turn have recognized by others, all the challenges and the emotional highs and lows, of the transplantation journey is more than uplifting. It is a reminder that even when caregivers or transplant patients may feel alone, the intimate and sometimes isolated corners of their lives can be touched by others who have walked a parallel path. Such seemingly simple acts of acknowledgement are deeply impactful.
Despite not knowing those who would follow them into Apartment 10, the notes of those guests who stayed before them contain an invitation. They welcome those who have only just stepped inside of our buildings to feel joined with the many transplant recipients and caregivers who have stayed at Transplant House of Cleveland since 2014. Before you even arrive at Transplant House of Cleveland, such messages seem to say, you are already invited to be part of a community of guests committed, in large ways and smaller ones, to supporting one another.