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