(And emotion wells)
It’s fair to say I have met and do meet a fair few people, one way or another. Different contexts.
And I know that, for some, a few words from a stranger will be all the human interaction they’ll get for the day. Day after day. But they crave for more.
And although I read about that years and years ago, the thought has always stayed with me. The plight of the lonely.
And so I always try to make contact, however briefly, with strangers. Whatever their age. However they look. A nod, a few words, eye contact, whatever is right. Whatever is right for the opportunity. Whatever I can do to ease someone’s loneliness, however marginal my contribution. Something’s better than nothing. At worst, my marginal effort will mean nothing, will perhaps be unwanted, perhaps misplaced.
And today, for no reason that I can track down in my brain, a time not so long ago when I was so, so lonely came back to me.
And emotion wells up just at the memory. Right now. As I write. Emotion raw and without focus. But that’s OK. It’s not a sad emotion, however raw it is. It makes me well up now, but my loneliness was then, not now.
And that makes me appreciate all the more the people in my life.
And today’s raw emotion is fine. It’s tiring, but it’s fine.
Cost: Little. Value: Immense
In a rehab ward in hospital. Continuing, however shakily, to get better. Having made enough progress to be in a rehab ward was far more progress than had been thought possible, probable. Not that I knew that.
But one night I was crying. I can’t say why; I don’t know what brought me down – I can’t recall what the trigger was. As ever, my memory’s not great.
And the patient in the bed across the way from me noticed and came over to … I don’t know. To comfort me? Reassure me? Calm me? I can’t remember. I don’t know what either of us said.
I don’t even remember names. I don’t remember so much.
But I remember that kindness. And how important it was.
Kindness costs little or nothing. We all need to remember that it can be priceless.
Some weeks later, my new-found friend’s discharge came before mine. A hug in the corridor. My brief, hastily written note of good wishes and thanks. An episode, however short, ended. That’s how it has to be. Nothing lasts for ever. But at least what you learn can last a lifetime.
Arguably … Being comforted by a stranger could be construed as being at odds with the reality of ‘you’re born alone, you live alone, you die alone’.
But perhaps the comfort afforded by others, strangers or otherwise, is merely a temporary respite. Perhaps how temporary it is, is the key variable.