From One Former Cripple to Another

BrendaCalara, Creative Commons
BrendaCalara, Creative Commons

I live in an ambitious/aggressive town, which is evident in the way drivers routinely tie up traffic while trying to turn left from the right hand turn lane. Or right from the left lane.  It doesn’t matter what lane they are in, because traffic laws don’t apply to them and no one else on the road matters.

It’s evident in the high maintenance, penny pinching demands customers make of cashiers and in the way they hurl abuse upon them when their unreasonable requests are denied.  Who cares that the line is growing ever longer behind them.

It’s evident in the way moms train their children to view others as superfluous. Like the time the preschool son of the wife of a local celebrity violently kicked the snow off his boots using the front grill of MY car so as not to get snow in his mom’s fancy SUV, because his mom instructed him not to kick her car.

She stood there watching while her young son’s boots packed snow into my grill, which impeded airflow, which caused my sensors to screech and wail the entire drive home.

When I finally rolled down my window and asked her little boy to please stop kicking my car, the mom, instead of being appropriately apologetic, scolded me for speaking to her little boy. How dare I?  I’m not afraid of celebs.

That’s the kind of town I live in.

So it shouldn’t have been a surprise when I broke this same foot (and ankle) six years ago and people let doors slam in my face as I tried to hobble through them on crutches. Or when they rushed past me, practically shoving me out of the way and cutting me off as I sweated and struggled under the weight of my heavy winter coat, trying to do my Christmas shopping on one foot.

All that, and more, is exactly why it WAS SUCH A SURPRISE when a stranger actually lent me her hand last week.

Here’s what happened:  My sister made the 45 minute drive from her house to mine to help me take Little One to the vet. To repay her kindness, I bought her lunch. I chose a restaurant that I thought might be fairly easy to negotiate on crutches. It wasn’t.

As I gingerly made my way out of the restaurant, past the crowd of people crammed in the foyer, something clicked.  A woman suddenly noticed that I might actually need a little help.  She instructed her teens, who saw me and my crutches but were were oblivious, to give me a little room to maneuver.  Then, to the utter surprise of those same teens, she did the unthinkable, she opened the door for me.

As I hobbled down the breezeway lined with waiting customers, apologizing for my lack of crutching skill, a woman jumped out of line and followed me through the outer door. I heard her tell her friends she would be right back – she wanted to talk to me.

I sat on a bench outside the door waiting for my sister to pull her car around and she sat down beside me.

She told me that when she had badly broken her leg and was in a cast for almost a year, people would just let doors close on her. She didn’t say so, but I think she jumped out of line to let me know that she understood what a big deal it was that that woman held the door for me, that we were both witness to a miracle.

And to bestow a little kindness of her own.

That’s the thing about the things that temporarily cripple us, they show us what it’s like.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Kindness of Strangers.”

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