It was almost a cliche in theater classes, the line uttered by Blanche du Bois in Tennessee Williams’ epic play Streetcar Named Desire: “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” But it really isn’t a cliche – it’s something each of us has experienced, felt, enjoyed.
The kindness of strangers.
We see a lot of kindness in the aftermath of the horrific attack in Orlando. Sorrow, yes, and anger, frustration, fear, disbelief, shock – lots of other emotions, too. But, there is kindness abundant in the care of medical professionals treating people they do not know. Kindness in the strangers lined up to donate blood or a shoulder to rest on. Kindness in the prayers lifted up – rising like incense to our Heavenly Father.
If we took a moment to realize and appreciate all of the kindness that we experience from strangers, just that simple act of gratitude would make the world a calmer place. And if we became the stranger more often, upon whom others could depend, think what peace could prevail! That dependence wouldn’t necessarily be forged from a terrible tragedy or monumental undertaking. It could be as “minute” as saying something more humane than, “How are you, fine, thanks” as we pick up our grocery bag and exit the store. Or, “Please, go ahead of me in the line. I can wait.”
Dependence implies trust, and in our world today, we are encouraged not to trust strangers (and sometimes not to even trust our family or friends). But we all depend on the kindness of strangers. We are all strangers, too. No cliche – just us.
This time of year, many families are gathering in large or smaller groups to celebrate their relationships and relations. I really enjoy family reunions, and I always learn something new about my heritage, where I come from and who I am.
There’s another benefit to attending reunions for people with chronic illness: We can learn about any health conditions that “run in the family,” and so be better informed about what might be pertinent to us. Also, if we have particular health issues, our experiences can better inform our own family members. Not necessarily as amusing as old, funny family stories, but helpful nonetheless.
As more research digs into the genetic components of developing diseases, our knowledge about family health issues can enable us and our doctors to monitor anything that might affect us. Through our experiences “in the trenches,” we can then help encourage and educate others in our family, especially the next generations, to be aware and care about preventative measures related to diet, exercise, and other healthful things.
Families are wonderful – and the more we do to keep them healthy, the better we will all be!
At some point, it happens to each of us who has a serious chronic illness. We feel something “off,” and it doesn’t go away.
Perhaps it is a dull pain. Or a sharp pang. Or a rash. Or a sudden swelling. And we think, “Oh, no. Not again. Really?!”
We might have just been through a bad flare or medical procedure and are simply sick of seeing our doctors, making the effort to get to the docs’ offices, or adding “one more thing” to our long list of ills. Or, perhaps, our condition has been fairly quiet and hope has crept up so softly that we are comforted, optimistic that we’re embarking on a long stretch of relative calm. Maybe we have an appointment coming up, and we don’t want to have to call and ask an over-worked medical assistant to wiggle extra space for us so we can get in earlier than scheduled.
Whatever the back-story, sometimes we wait to call the doctor and wait for the “thing” to go away.
But, it doesn’t. It remains and, perhaps, gets worse.
Even those of us who have lived with illness for a long time have felt the frustration of that new, “one more” thing. And we’ve hesitated to call in the complaint (such a troublesome word for describing our symptoms – we’re not really “complaining,” we’re “reporting!”)
Yet, we don’t do ourselves any favors by hesitating or waiting to call our doctors. As we develop good, working relationships with our docs and their staff, we should at least call in and explain the new “thing” so that a more objective pair of ears can hear and determine if it warrants further investigation. We are sometimes embarrassed that, when all is said, done, and tested, nothing untoward is found. But that’s no reason to think that we shouldn’t report the new “thing,” even if it, too, leads to an “all clear!”
In the coming summer months, many people will vacation, travel, and enjoy activiites outside a normal, calmer routine. It might be reasonable to feel more tired than usual, or have something else “off” crop up. But, to be on the safer side, the time we take to check in with our docs could help us enjoy more and flare less!
Joy and peace,
A very good Election Day to you! Have you voted? Will you vote? I hope so! Even if it takes some extra effort, exercising our right to vote is one of the most important activities we can engage in -yes, even if you feel that with your health challenges you are more marginalized than mainstream.
I realize that the physicality of voting can pose some issues. In many neighborhoods, polling place locations have changed or have been eliminated, requiring us to go farther to vote. One former polling place that I had to go to was not handicap-accessible (unless the person needing accommodation really pressed for assistance). The harsh fluorescents and hard floors might make for a painful wait to get a ballot and a voting booth. And once we’re in the booth, we might not have abundant enthusiasm for the particular people and things presented for us to vote for or against.
Yet, if we do not make the effort to vote, we are the ones marginalizing ourselves. And if we do not participate in the process, we have no hope ever of bringing our particular needs and concerns to the forefront.
Absentee ballots are always an option for those who are home-bound or cannot take time to vote on Election Day. Some communities have a public service of providing transportation for those whose mobility problems would otherwise prevent them from voting. Other areas allow voting on days other than the actual Election Day.
Others will not understand or see the extra effort we have to give to vote. But rest assured that what we do today does matter to us and our communities. The more we participate, the more voice we will have.
Joy and peace,