The Kindness of Strangers

I believe we’re all doing our best with the information, skills, and resources we have on hand. Deepak Chopra says that the universal rule of creation governing this is “Physical laws operate efficiently, with least effort” and the personal equivalent is “At any given moment, the universe is giving you the best results possible” (The Book of Secrets, Copyright (c) 2004 by Deepak Chopra, page 104). I’ve been thinking about that today.

Yesterday, my husband and I were walking along arm-in-arm at a good clip, on our way to see a movie, when we succeeded in tripping ourselves up in a length of plastic that was trapped under a City of Vancouver A-frame thingy set to warn pedestrians not to fall into some hole. Crash! Down we both went in a tangle of arms and legs, the back of my head whacking on the pavement in the process. Ow!

In no time, we were surrounded by helpful people. One young woman had just come out of the YMCA – the new one on Burrard Street – and she suggested we sit down while she fetched someone from inside to bring an ice pack. Which we did and she did and they did.

Salem was the young man who came out equipped with an instant ice pack that I applied to the growing egg on the back of my head. Then he proceeded to ask me questions to see if I was still all there. Enough details. Suffice it to say that everyone – from the people who helped us up off the sidewalk to the Scotiabank personnel who gave us movie passes for another day in exchange for our “non-refundable” tickets, from the people in emergency to the man who pushed the wheelchair to the CT scan room – was kind and thoughtful. All of them strangers. All of them offering their help.

Earlier in the day, I’d met with Linda, an old friend I hadn’t seen for a long time. We caught up with each other’s news – she’s growing organic garlic and fattening grass-fed steers; I’m editing inspirational manuscripts set for publication. We first met as young wives and young mothers, juggling maternal and wifely responsibilities with our own desires and goals and ambitions. Now our children are grown and the second generation is either here or arriving soon. So we’re free to do what we choose to do.

I must digress. Between December 2013 and February 2014, three loved ones died. Two were dear friends of mine and my husband’s; the other was my mother. They died of “divers diseases” as one old bible used to say. (It took me some years as a child to realize that “divers” was an old spelling of “diverse” meaning “various,” rather than referring to some affliction connected with deep-sea diving and getting the bends. Though, of course, that is also life-threatening.) One friend was 75; we’d known Gaye for 20 years; I’d worked and acted with her. The other friend was 85; we’d known George for maybe 15 years; we’d played bridge with him and his wife throughout that time. My Mum was 95 and I’d known her and she’d known me all my life, not surprisingly. All three lived full lives, till close to the end.

Back to yesterday, when Linda and I also remembered the old friends we have in common. And we reminisced about the friends we have in common who had committed suicide: a father and a son; a husband and a wife; another wife. And I thought of some acquaintances who had a son who committed suicide. And we thought how terribly sad it would be to reach a stage in life when no further options offered themselves, either internally or externally. It can’t have appeared to them that the universe was giving them the best results possible. Where were their friends? Where were their kind strangers?

Coming away from my husband’s and my tumble yesterday with no more than a bruised head (mine) and a sprained wrist (his), I feel so thankful, grateful, and ready to dive into life with eagerness once more. All those choices that I was considering yesterday, I’m now ready to say, “Yes, I’ll do them. Yes.”

In her last years, my mother was that way. Whatever anyone invited her to, she said, “Yes.”

We each get just one crack at living our lives as the person we are today. And how well we live these lives is a choice that we can remake in every moment. I’m choosing to live life to the full.

I hope you are too.

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