One of my favourite proverbs is “When one helps another, both are stronger”. I believe it is a German proverb. The picture above illustrates this. I’m told these birds bead together, wing to wing, to appear larger to raptors. If birds help each other, have humans lost the art and science of helping? I don’t believe so. The following story gives me hope.
I work in what is broadly called ‘the helping profession’ but there are strict parameters to what I do and how. Increasingly, I’ve come to the realisation, anyone who is in the business of providing a service to another, is in the helping profession. One does not need years of study and a degree to do this. Working in rural and at times remote places, I no longer am anxious about getting ill. I have had three episodes of illness in all the years I’ve travelled and in each instance, people have shown nothing but kindness. Today let me share something with you …
A few months ago I disembarked from a horrendous flight. It was winter, the winds were strong and the plane small. I could not choose my seat and was near the engine. I sat curled up, recoiling from the noise and the storm for two hours. As I came down the stairs, I felt a breathtaking pain in my arm. I dismissed it and when the luggage arrived in the shed (yes, it was that kind of airport!), I bent down to pick up my case and found I had no strength in my arm. The pain, too, was still there. I knew it was not a heart attack. I knew it was not a stroke either. I stayed calm and went looking for a pharmacy for good ole Deep Heat and paracetamol.
Too unwell to eat, I went to bed early and woke around 1 am. Deep Heat had not taken the edge off the pain. The pain, now making me ill. I called the emergency health line, the nurse triaged me and then directed my call to a doctor. We talked at length and he was satisfied, I didn’t need an ambulance but he suggested I see a doctor the next day. To see a GP these days in the city, one has to predict illness about four days in advance. I also know an appointment in rural areas where services are limited, can be weeks. I didn’t like my chances.
Morning came, I found a doctor not two minutes from my hotel. I rang their number at 7:30 am just checking to see if they were operational. To my surprise they open the clinic early morning. The clinic reception staff listened to distress and advised me she would fit me in immediately. The next challenge was getting dressed. Impossible! To my utter surprise I had a swelling over my shoulder and collar bone. That explains it, I thought, I’ve broken my collar bone. I threw a shawl over my top and headed for the doctor. Easier said than done!
The doctor’s rooms were impossible to find. Often in rural areas, people describe an address because replacing street signs seems redundant. People know where everyone lives and everything is. After half an hour of driving in extreme distress, I finally realised when the receptionist said “in front of the shops”, she meant adjacent. This is only after she volunteered to stand outside and wave me down the main street. I got out of my car, and walked towards her. She saw my distress and gently put her arms around me and guided me in. She ushered me into a room and away from a waiting room filled with patients. As I tried to compose myself we chatted briefly and I disclosed I was visiting for work. She sat holding my hand and said firmly, “You have no one in town. I’m not leaving you alone”. She and I knew, she didn’t have to do this, but she did.
The sequelae to this event was a non-event. X-rays, hospital visit etc came up nil. I later found out I had an extraordinarily severe muscle cramp, probably from being tense flying in a storm!
That event is nearly forgotten. I have flown many times since then, and recently found myself back in the town again. I bought some flowers and a box of chocolates and requested to see the lady who helped me. She was seated in the back of the office. I didn’t think she would recognise or remember me, but she did. I gave her what I had brought with me and she protested, “no, no, I was just doing my job”. I told her, “Maybe, but you did your job with kindness”.
As I head out yet again with just an overnight stay at home, I’m packing this story with me. The woman’s words of kindness, a reminder, we are never alone.
Until next time
a dawn bird
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