Tuesday, 10 November 2015
Even a person like me, often given to cynicism, runs up against unexpected kindness, both of friends and of strangers. “The Kindness of Strangers” is a lovely phrase, no wonder it was taken into the language with such enthusiasm. Tennessee Williams has Blanche DuBois say it at the end of “A Streetcar Named Desire”. In the play it is a very sad phrase, Blanche is a lonely, confused woman, broken and about to be taken into an institution; she has no real friends and the kindness of strangers she has experienced has been much in her imagination.
Recently, Beloved and I have been shown much genuine kindness. Late yesterday afternoon was a case in point; I returned a friend’s call, who had phoned to offer to take Millie for a walk while were out. The friend had already gone out and come back home, but when I mentioned that Millie had been in the car with us all afternoon and had not had a walk, she said she’d take her out anyway, although it was getting dark by then. I was tired from driving and taking Beloved to see health professionals and very grateful for having this additional task lifted from my shoulders.
Beloved now has a small army of personal carers visit him in the morning to get him ready for the day. They have little to do because he is quite independent again, but getting in and out of the bath can be tricky; they are professionals and know how to keep their charges safe. Their work can be unpleasant and stressful, they work long hours for minimal pay, yet each one of them is friendly, smiling and willing, full of good cheer and compassion. And, above all, common sense. Good old practical common sense allied with natural, abundant kindness. I wish there were a way for me to make those in power realise the goodness and worth of these people and see that their remuneration matched their qualities and labour.
I had a day ‘off’ last week, to go into town and do some urgent shopping which had been neglected for months. I’d left Beloved with a lady from one of those charities that give the occasional respite to full-time carers - I was a little taken aback when I got home to find that she had left her own and Beloved’s washing up for me to do, but Beloved said she was a pleasant woman and he didn’t mind too much having her around during my absence. Anyway, she’s not the one who showed special kindness, that was left to a middle-aged woman on the park-and-ride bus back to the carpark where I’d left the car. As I entered the bus, laden with bags and parcels, scanning the interior for a vacant seat, this woman got up and offered me her seat near the door. I was fairly surprised, it’s never happened to me before but, reader, I took it. Perhaps the woman saw how exhausted I was. It was my first visit to town after being ill; something of my need for a rest must have been obvious to her and she simply got up and stepped into the crowded aisle before I had even got over my surprise and internal debate whether to accept her kindness. Sitting down felt enormously satisfying and I have every intention to do the same for an old lady the next time I feel able to stand on the bus.
You might ask what the picture of a spider has to do with kindness? She was stuck in the bath this morning and I rescued her, but took her only as far as the outside window ledge from where I left her to find her own way home. She’s probably shinning up the drainpipe right now and climbing through the plug hole back into the bath.