Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The kindness of Strangers

I think humans are inherently kind. Of course one hears about high profiled criminals, animal abusers, sexual deviants etc. but if one gets lost in that thinking, the whole world seems bad. Women are not the only sex to get raped anymore but as woman we do have to keep our third sense active. But I did not mean to get into this subject really, I want to focus on the kind human part.

In my day, I have encountered so many attitudes and people with these attitudes. I have a disability and there are times when I need help. It could be as simple as moving a chair out of my way so I can walk without falling or  carrying something across a room or helping me carry my groceries to my car, particularly if the store is small but this happens even in a big supermarket. These are not big things, just things that I cannot do myself because of my mobility issue and MS. I write about this because more people have helped me along at times than I can count, only because they are kind. You know, sometimes it's not even helping me physically, it can be a nice smile or even a joke.

I used to dread going to the store or anywhere for that matter. As my disability progressed and reached a point when I needed help, it was terrifying not knowing how others would react. It is interesting how this unfolded for me. Over the years I went from being scared to learning what it means to meet kind strangers. I was in an awkward stage towards year 14 with MS when I did not need a walking aid but I wished I had one. So, people would look at me and visibly I looked fine, just wobly. The assumption may have been that I had been drinking but of course I had not. So, at that point I started mentally "mapping" my steps and using caution in situations where it was always second nature. Then, everything was different -- this took many years to happen and to get used to.

So, now I walk as though the left side of my body has been affected. I was no longer walking the delicate line of partial disability, no, I was disabled. That meant not only did I have to learn how to walk differently but learn to somehow walk. I am happy to announce that has happened!

My favorite story is about a man in his 90's. We walked into the supermarket at the same time and at the same speed. We slowly approached the sliding doors when he stopped, banged his cane on the ground and said, "here, let me open the door for you!" As the doors opened automatically, I smiled at him and said, "wow you must be a magician!" This encounter may not mean much to someone else but it made my day! Or the numerous times that people have helped me bring groceries to the car or unload things or even bring a scooter back to the store when I couldn't find handicapped parking anywhere because that would mean I would have to walk back to my car. The man who helped was behind me in the grocery line. The other day I asked volunteers, who were sitting at a help desk in my local medical center if I could use a courtesy scooter. An older man jumped up, showed me how it worked (all scooters are different), wished me well and told me not to worry and how he was happy to help. He was definitely happy to do his job helping people like me. None of these people had to help me. They did because they wanted to help. The older lady there smiled and said "we're here to help."

Is that what they mean by "paying it forward?"

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