by Pat Woods
In December 2007 I became ill and was taken by ambulance for a blood transfusion. I guess it was my chance to get back some of what I’d donated over the years.
“Thank goodness no neighbors are watching,” I said. “I’d be answering questions for weeks.”
“You get good at spotting people behind curtains,” replied a paramedic. “At least three houses are checking you out.” Oh dear. I don’t like to discuss my health and didn’t relish the impending inquisition.
This paramedic’s kindness was amazing. At the hospital, orderlies told him to go but he wouldn’t, until he knew medical staff was assigned to me. What a relief when one is alone in a huge hospital, with impersonal staff hurrying past.
After several days in hospital, my sons cleaned my house thoroughly, arrived in a car strewn with jasmine, and settled me in at my house.
A week later, I desperately needed fresh air and groceries. I walked to the nearest bus stop and suddenly felt weak and dizzy. I knew I couldn’t make it home, but if I caught the bus to the store, I could grab a shopping trolley for support and be fine.
Here in Brisbane, Australia, buses only stop if you hail them; newcomers to the city stand, as I once did, totally bemused at buses zooming past them.
My bus came and I waved him down. Apparently I was a metre too far from the actual stop; he gestured rudely and kept going. So there I was, hanging onto a lamppost, feeling dreadful and wondering what on earth to do next.
A hand gently but firmly took my elbow. I looked up, and further up, to see a tall man with a concerned look on his kind face. “You aren’t well, are you?” he asked. “Oh, just a bit dizzy,” I mumbled, and he gave me a look that said, “Yeah, right, and I’m Santa.”
Turned out he was a bus driver taking his break across the road. He supported me to his bus and helped me into a seat. “Where do you live?” he asked, then rang his depot, saying he was taking ten minutes to look after a sick passenger. Shortly, my neighbors, still agog from the ambulance, were treated to an enormous city bus pulling up outside my house and the driver escorting me to my door.
In two weeks I experienced the kindness of people going out of their way to make me comfortable: the paramedic who stayed with me; my sons who rallied round; and the bus driver who gave up his break to get me home safely after his colleague simply drove past.
I hope we all have a chance to experience — and give — that kindness. I will always be grateful to those who bother to notice the needs of others, and take that extra step to help.