Normally in the autumn, I am running to keep up with the workload. This year, not so much. It’s more like hobbling to keep up. I’ve literally worked myself to the bone and the cartilage in my right hip is completely gone. As the arthritis has advanced, my mobility has decreased and my dependency on first a cane, then crutches and now even – gasp! – other people, has grown. I’m sure many of you can relate to this. We see ourselves as independent and capable of doing everything on our own – until we can’t. I am so stubborn that I’ve tried every alternative to surgery for over a year until the pain has gotten so bad that there is no choice. It’s scheduled for next week.
A funny thing happened on the way to the operating room. I’ve discovered that using crutches requires two hands and no matter how clever the gizmos and bags meant for this purpose, there are certain things you just can’t carry or doors you can’t open. But crutches are also an open invitation to others to be compassionate and offer help. New Englanders get a bad rap for being cool and aloof, but that’s not what I’ve experienced in the past few weeks. Maybe all they need is an excuse to reach out to people they don’t know. So I’ve decided this time on crutches is an opportunity to witness and welcome the kind acts offered.
Surrendering to my condition, it has been truly miraculous to see just how warm and caring so many people have been. Not only have they been there on the spot to carry my plate at a buffet lunch or to make sure I have a comfortable chair, so many have shared their stories to offer hope and encouragement. Truly balm for the soul. While I may not be able to shower for a few days after surgery, I will continue to bathe in the milk of human kindness.
Of course, not everyone goes out of their way to be helpful. In fact, several people have let a door close on me or looked at me and looked away as fast as they could. Whether they are lost in their thoughts, are uncomfortable, or just lack empathy, it’s hard to say. I know that I will never again see someone with mobility challenges without pausing to remember there is a story that brought them to this place.
Next time you see someone struggling on crutches (it’s a lot harder than it looks!), consider offering a hand or just a wink and a knowing smile. You will help to buoy some flagging spirits and make someone’s day. It’s that simple.