- 10th May 2017 – The kindness of strangers
About a month or so I was standing at a bus stop outside Tesco and started chatting to an old lady ‘I need to go to the council offices,’ she said. ‘Is it far?’ ‘No, I said – you could walk’. But, my directions were a bit vague and I sounded uncertain and then she said ‘I think I’ll wait. I’ve only just lost my licence because I find walking difficult but it is a pain getting the bus everywhere.’ I told her that I also couldn’t drive and it was something that you just got used to. I said that the reason why I couldn’t drive was because I had epilepsy. She sounded startled because she said that ‘I looked normal’. And I thought it was good that she now knew that people with epilepsy just looked normal. ‘I do get very confused a lot’, I said, ‘That’s why I don’t drive. It would be dangerous for me to drive’.
And as we got talking she told me a little about herself. Every morning, she said, she got up and went and had breakfast at the local bistro because it was important for her to go and talk to someone every day. And, although I felt slightly sorry that she had to do this just to get company, I also felt kind of proud of her, because she had found a strategy to deal with her loneliness that worked for her. Just as she had learnt something about epilepsy, I had learnt something about the courage it takes to be old and deal with life on a day to day basis. I suggested that she looked up the University of the Third Age, because my grandmother-in-law had loved it and they had lots of interesting activities and she seemed to like that idea. The bus came and I told her that the bus was going to the council offices. But as we sat down, I realised that although it was the right bus for me, it wasn’t the right bus for her – the bus was going in the opposite direction for her. I apologised profusely and felt awful. And she said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s OK,’ and off she got at the next stop. And do, you know I think it was OK. I don’t think she would have been angry at me for making her go on the bus in the wrong direction. Although she was a stranger, I knew that she had come to be a friend and that she could just accept that I had meant no harm.
Last week there was an alarming post on a Facebook support group I am on ‘ Please can someone speak to me, I’m feeling really down’. Up went one response ‘I’m here for you hun, if you want to talk’ and another ‘What’s up?’ and I pipped in ,‘Are you OK?’ But there was no response. Only silence. People started to get a bit panicky – ‘We are getting worried about you,’ said not one but a few people. All in all there were about 17 responses to this post in 24 hours until finally a response came ‘ Sorry, for all the worry, I’m OK. I had turned off my phone and was feeling really tired.’
We are taught and we teach our children to be so wary of strangers that we forget that humanity would not survive without the kindness of strangers. Whether it’s giving a reassuring smile to someone walking down the street to who looks like they are having a hard time; giving directions to someone who is lost; picking up a scarf on the pavement and putting it on the wall so that the owner might find it or putting money in a charity box so that someone else can be helped, but you don’t know where – all these things can make a huge difference to someone’s life. A lot can be achieved by the kindness of strangers and we should proudly acknowledge that when we give and receive it so that we become more aware that humanity is much better than we are otherwise told to believe.
In other news
I have started some new meds but I am still on the waiting list for the ketogenic diet. The medication says to call your doctor if you come out in a rash – and I am now awaiting a callback from my doctor because that is exactly what has happened to me. It doesn’t look good. This week I also went to a neuropsychologist to get assessed as part of my neurorehabilitation programme. Last week I also went to the neuropsychologist to be assessed. Next week I will also go to get assessed. I don’t not fit in a box, the neuropsychologist told me so altogether it will take three weeks for me to be assessed. She is trying to understand if my problems are more psychological or neurological and on the basis of her conclusions she will ‘prescribe’ be appropriate treatment.