The Kindness of Strangers
The other day my husband and I were at Sam’s Club buying way too much as usual and while he paid for and boxed up our stuff I went to get us a Coke from the soda fountain in the eating area. So I scooted my scooter over there and got as close as I could to the counter that had the lids and straws.
Now, I’m short – or as I like to call it, petite. At Sam’s drink counter I could barely reach the lids; in fact, my scooter tipped a little bit. The straws, though, they were six inches even higher. As I was trying to gauge whether I should try to lean even further, at the risk of completely falling over and my picture ending up on The People of Sam’s Club, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I looked to see a lady smiling at me. She asked, “Can I get a straw for you?” Relief flooded me. I don’t look good in Internet pictures.
“Yes, please,” I answered her smile with one of my own.
She handed me my straw, laughed, and said, “I broke my ankle a little while ago and I know how frustrating those scooters are.” I laughed with her, thanked her, and scooted on, catching back up with my husband.
Her gesture was very simple.
Her gesture was kind. And that was a big deal to me.
Because for the rest of the day I remembered it. I went on to my allergist appointment where I got two shots (the doctor did give me an Avengers sticker, though. Stickers are cool) and then we drove the long 80 miles home. Through all of that I remembered that act of kindness and it made me happy.
I know that I am more than my illness, more than my mobility. I know I am a complete person who has a lot to offer, who is intelligent, funny, strong, loving – but when I’m in a wheelchair sometimes I feel invisible. This woman’s experience with a broken ankle gave her insight into a chronic illness. And she saw me.
And she gave me a little help without judgment or pity.
Folks who don’t have an injury or chronic illness are also kind, obviously. I’ve thought about it and realized that people – strangers and friends – gift me with many small considerations. When I’m out and in my power chair or wheelchair, people have held doors open for me, made room for me to pass through, stopped and gotten items off the top shelves for me, and all without me asking them to. My friends send me surprise care packages filled with spices and herbs, different teas, coloring books, colored pencils, snacks they think I’ll like, and chocolate. Getting a care package is like Christmas all year long.
I’ve learned these little kindnesses go a long way.
In fact, it can have a ripple effect. I appreciate the concern others have shown for me and I, in turn, show concern for someone else to share that appreciation. It’s called paying it forward.
How can you do this?
Well, you can share something beautiful. I share my nature photography online. I love showcasing the beauty of the world around us. It can be nice to see a picture of something good in the midst of all the bad news and conflict online. Wonderful pictures and stories are easy to find on the Internet. Use words to compliment others. Thank people who help you. Send letters, actual written on paper by hand letters. Drop a dollar or two in the Ronald McDonald House donation box whenever you eat there. It’s a great charity that helps sick children and their families and each penny counts. Write funny or nice notes to people in your family. Send a thank you card to your caregiver. Send your own version of a small care package to a friend or, better yet, to someone in the military. There are so many ways you can be kind.
People who are kind to others make the world a better place.
Think what life would be like if all of us were more kind.