The Kindness Of Strangers

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
-Aesop, The Lion and the Mouse

KindnessIt has been almost one month in which Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy has been able to leave the house without a cane or crutches.

Although things are much better than they were during May and June, there are still small occasional reminders of my rheumatoid arthritis. Every now and then my knuckles and right wrist get a burning sensation, and if I walk for more than an hour or so (which I did indeed do this weekend!) my knees start tingling.

As I returned to going around in public without a walking aid, I realize that there is something else that I am missing – the kindness of strangers.

When I entered my most flare, I was of a frame of mind that said that I should not have to rely upon the help of strangers when I was in public. (Asking for help at home was hard enough, the last thing I was going to do was ask for help from strangers.) If someone offered to hold open the door for me, or give me a hand when it was obvious that I was struggling, I often interpreted this not as a gentle act of kindness, but as a indication of my weakness.

I have since changed.

During these past few months, I slowly began to realize the little things that people around me did, in a genuine attempt to help me. Taxi drivers sped up and turned around in order to meet me at my doorstep, cashiers waited patiently as it took me a while to lean my crutches against the counter and fumble through my backpack, strangers in the store help open the door for me.

I could have reacted against each one of these actions, on the belief that I should and could do everything for myself. But I began to realize that a lot of people wanted to find a way to help, and the truth of the matter was that during my most painful moments these forms of help did serve in allowing me to exert slightly less energy and movement.

And in an odd sort of way, accepting these random acts of kindness from strangers went a long ways in realizing that is was okay to ask for help around the house. I was not relying on this help (we all strive to maintain our independence, I think), but I was definitely using this help on occasion to my benefit.

I still clearly remember some of my most painful periods which took place only a little more than a month ago. Instead of struggling to get dressed alone (my shoulders were killing me), I asked for help. As I look back, I realize that not pushing myself too hard at the moment played a major role in not worsening my pain, which ultimately allowed me to “heal” much faster.

Those stangers will never know how much their kind actions helped me, how their smiles lifted my spirits when I was struggling to move and deep down inside I was crying.

In addition to the family, friends and loved ones who are by my side day in and day out, these strangers who make their cameo appearances of support deserve their fair recognition as well.

To all the strangers out there who have offered me a helping hand in the past and who will offer me a helping hand in the future, thank you!

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!

15 Comments
15 comments
  1. Linda C says:

    Aren’t people nice? I believe that most people are. And isn’t it so much fun to be nice back?

    I think I have shared this before- I try to thank people with this, “Oh, thank-you..your Mother (or grandmother) would be so proud of you.” That always gets a big grin from whomever, especially young guy.

    I can understand that it would be much, much harder for a young man to ask for or accept help than an old granny like me. But remember, we all need help and kindness in some form.

  2. Jennifer says:

    I think this is wonderfully put. I have felt the same way!! And it’s very tough to ask or accept help when you are struggling with yourself. Kudos to those who help others. Hugs to you all. :)

  3. Diane says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I have recently had the need to use firstly a wheelchair, then latterly gutter crutches, whilst I was getting over surgery. I have been amazed at peoples kindness, though why should I be? I do try to help others myself. I almost miss those darned crutches!!

  4. Angie says:

    I’m so happy that you’re feeling better!!!!!!! How’s the diet going?

    I do agree that I sometimes miss that kindness I got. It was genuine. I am much more aware of those around me and my kids are too. They saw those random acts of kindness and my son asked me one time, “Mommy why did that man open the door for you?” I told him, “To be nice.” Now he holds the door for everyone he sees.

    I didn’t get to the point of crutches or a cane but I very well may have ended up there. It was obvious that I struggled when I walked. But one thing I hated was the looks of pity. Those looks that knew I was dealing with much much more than a sprained ankle.

    I’d like to put a link to this post on my fb page if it’s ok w/ you. Actually, I’ll put it on The Non-Dairy Queen and my own page if you don’t mind.

    Best, Angie

  5. Helen says:

    Thanks for reminding me of the many times a stranger’s kindness has made a difference for me, too. I think one of the great positives of illness is the opportunity to see the goodness in those who help us. I had a post started on this subject a while ago, and now I feel a little more inspired to finish it!

    I’m also very glad you’re feeling so well lately! And it sounds like you’re taking advantage of it, too :)

  6. Cathy says:

    Woo-hoo for strangers and their kindness! Also woo-hoo to you for the long walks. Isn’t it wonderful! I am happy for you.

  7. Lana says:

    That is one lesson I am learning too. In the beginning, it is so hard to ask for help, but it is a great world out there. People/strangers are kind and it is good to find that in people. Something you can find kindness in the most unlikely places. Glad to hear you are doing better.

  8. Lissa says:

    Hi RA Guy. I am new to the whole blog scene and was so pleased when I stumbled across your blog. I’ve been reading back through your archives this past week or so and have really enjoyed your humour-tinged posts. And love your 60-Second Guide To RA. I have passed the link to the Guide on to my 21 year old son, as he has had some troubling joint pain off and on for the past two years, and I highly suspect he has RA. I am hoping that reading your guide (along with some major ass-kicking from me) will prompt him to get in to the doc for some diagnostic tests.

    I am so glad to hear that you are feeling better this month, and really hope that things will continue to improve steadily for you. I look forward to following your progress here :)

  9. Laurie says:

    So glad to hear you are improving. Being dependent on the kindness of strangers is not an easy thing, but those acts of kindness and help remind us of the best in mankind. Most of us never thought we’d be recipients of these little acts of kindness until we were much older. I really believe in paying it forward, because you never know when you may need some help.

  10. Jennifer says:

    This was a lovely post RA Guy. You have a lovely way with words.
    I had a lovely act of kindness a couple of weeks ago when I young woman offered me her seat on the tram when she saw me struggling. I was shocked as this has never happen to me before (maybe as I am young?) and I don’t walk with any aids as yet. But it did lift my spirts that day.

  11. Lola says:

    I like to believe their acts of kindness help them as much as they help us. Maybe they value their own abilities a little more, or maybe it just makes them feel as good to help as it makes us to be helped.

  12. Phil says:

    I often check your blog now since I have found it. You have some great insight and a way with words. Great to hear that you are feeling mobile, I will send some positive vibes into the universe in hope that it lasts.

  13. Pollyanna Penguin says:

    It’s heartening to hear of the kindness of strangers when there are so many stories of strangers being total jerks, feeling they have the right to know your life story because you’re walking with a cane etc. etc.! But what I really, really want to know is … why does the guy giving the other guy some melon have a bird on his head? ;o)

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