On the Kindness of Strangers

We took a family trip away last weekend – myself, my youngest daughter and my middle daughter who, as regular readers of this blog will know, has complex multiple disabilities.  We had a great time, but it was made even better by the kindness of two strangers. I don’t suppose I will ever see them again, and I have no way of letting them know what a difference they made, so the next best thing I can do is send my thanks out into cyber-space.

The first time was when we were in a seaside arcade.  Normally this would be a very challenging environment for my daughter to cope with, but she had spotted an arcade machine with a model of Big Ben in the middle and with the Big Ben chimes playing, and the Big Ben chimes are one of her very favourite things in all the world.  So she asked to go into the arcade.  It was hot, noisy and crowded, with flashing lights everywhere you looked.  But my daughter was able to shut these things out, as she was single-mindedly focused on the Big Ben machine.

We stood by the machine and found a few 2ps for her to feed into it.  The lady standing at the next section of the machine had a win, and along with her 2p pieces out came a tacky, cheap keyring which consisted of a tiny skateboard with flashing red and blue lights in it.  She turned to us and asked if my daughter would like it, before handing it to her.  My daughter put it on her lap and turned it over with her one good hand, closely examining it.  She then picked it up and held it to her ear to see if it made any noise.  She was so absorbed in it that all our prompts to thank the lady fell on deaf ears and we had to say thank you on her behalf.  Finding that it didn’t make a noise, she put it down on her lap and turned her attention back to the Big Ben machine.  The lady turned and walked away, probably thinking that her gift had not been as well appreciated as she would have liked.

I wish she could have seen my daughter a little later, away from the hot and noisy arcade.  She examined the keyring again and discovered a switch on the bottom.  She was able to manipulate it with her thumb, and found that she she could turn the red and blue lights on and off at will.  This fascinated her, and she sat for quite some time happily switching them on and off, and then took it home with her after the weekend.

I wish I could let that lady know how much pleasure it eventually gave her, and that I was grateful for her generosity.

The second incident came the next day.  We had taken my daughter swimming, and with the help of the poolside hoist, we were lifting her out of the pool, I in the pool seeing her safely up out of the water, and my youngest daughter on the poolside to receive her as she came up.  Once she was safely in my youngest daughter’s hands, I turned and walked to the pool steps and climbed up out of the water.  By the time I returned to where the hoist was situated, my daughter had been lowered into her wheelchair, still with the hoist sling around her, and my youngest daughter was attempting to remove the sling, but she was not alone.  A passing lady had come over to see if she could help, but, wonder of wonders, instead of asking one of us if she could lend a hand, as most people would have done, she walked right up to my daughter in her wheelchair and asked her if she would allow her to help us get her out of the sling.  My daughter nodded enthusiastically, unused to being addressed by strangers.  Between the three of us we got her out of the sling and comfortable in her wheelchair, and then our kind helper disappeared before we had a chance to say more than a fleeting thank you.

But if I could speak to that lady again, I would like to tell her how very much it meant to see someone approach my daughter and address her as the intelligent human being that she is, instead of talking over her to us.  It was heartwarming and sadly rare to see a stranger respect her dignity in that way, and left all of us with a warm inner glow.

So, to those two people whose actions touched our hearts last weekend, I would like to say a heartfelt thank you, and God bless you.