All night I’ve been stewing over whether I’d write this blog or not…the experience I had today has been bumping around in my brain like one of those little silver balls in an old-school pinball machine, and thankfully it’s done just enough to ignite a little something in me.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit I’ve been in a slump lately; walking around in a negative funk like it’s my J-O-B. I’ve felt frustrated and cranky and all I could do was focus on being frustrated and cranky and it became a bit of a vicious cycle I haven’t been able to pull myself out of.
Today as I walked home from the subway, caught up in my own little world, I spotted a little old woman walking down the street toward me. She was leaning on her cane and struggling with two bags of groceries as she descended the slope of the road that dipped in a steep decline. I pulled my earbuds out and approached her. I kept thinking I didn’t want to freak her out but was almost certain she’d topple over if I didn’t help. She was hesitant at first but allowed me to take the bags from her and walk her home. She had 3 litres of milk and a carton of 12 eggs. I think the bags weighed more than she did. I made light conversation as we walked and as we approached her house she told me how nice her neighbours have been by mowing her lawn and helping her by bringing her recycling and garbage to the door for her.
I had a hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach as I listened. Since I’ve lived in Toronto I’ve grumbled about how hard it is to meet people. I’ve complained about the lack of a sense of community and how nobody is willing to help one another. As I stood at this woman’s door with the carton of eggs and the bags of milk and the circulation to my fingers began to fade, my head swam with the knowledge that she’s lived directly behind me for almost two years and I’ve never made the time to know her, even in passing. Nor have I really met anyone else in our neighbourhood. Isn’t it funny how life just passes you by like that sometimes?
We chatted for a while and in conversation I learned that her husband had passed away in previous years and that last year she’d lost her daughter to cancer. None of it was weird or over-sharing, it just was. She said she had lots of help from neighbours and friends from her church but then she opened the door to let her cat out and as he weaved through my feet I bent to scratch his ear. She admitted that she’d adopted him a few years back just for the company. I wanted to hug her. For the billions of people in this world, I wonder how many of us feel lonely on a regular basis? I wonder how many of us could have an impact just by carrying someone’s groceries to the door or smiling and saying hello rather than keeping ourselves closed off.
As I put the groceries down I made a decision. I asked for paper and pen and scrawled my name and number down and asked her to call me if she ever felt she needed anything. I walked home feeling pretty unsettled. I felt I’d not done enough. I still do. Sometimes I think the ones who ask for the least help are the ones who need it the most. It makes my stomach hurt.
That being said, walking away from her house I also realized that by doing something kind for someone else I’d not been so focused on my own negative thoughts. It made issues that seemed important five minutes before, feel silly. It’s easy to forget there’s more to life than the trivial little life stresses when you’re living them. It’s easy to forget that time passes either way.