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The kindness of strangers...can mean the world

2012 has chosen its theme: The Year of Misplaced Trust.

In large part, this is being let down by folks I trusted to care for my kids. Yesterday was another example of this. Persistence has been struggling with hearing issues, and all that stems from that, due to consistently congested ears. Nothing we've done has helped. We started seeing specialists about this early in the year, but we really amped up our efforts this fall. It's been a rough go, involving a lot of tests, poking, prodding, and constantly disrupted lives with doctor visits. She's worn out with it all. And it's a lot of hard and complex stuff for a little kid to process. She's being a champ about it, of course, because if ever a kid had a heart for putting her head down and plowing through, she's that kid.

But she's ready for it to be finished. She's ready to have it fixed. And she's ready to launch into catching up on all she's missed and gotten behind on because her hearing has been impaired.

I want that for her 100%. Maybe 200%.

You know how it feels to be a parent and love this little person bigger than your body can hold. You feel a sort of glorious despair because you know your own human failings, which include not being able to hand her the moon and make everything okay all the time, even if you know neither of these things would be good for her.

Yesterday was the day the doctor's office was supposed to take Step 1 to fixing it. Instead, they not only didn't fix anything, but they were pretty dreadful health care providers who treated my daughter...well, as if she were an inconvenience to their day and basically ignored her as if she wasn't there.

Not one person in the ENT's office even spoke to her. They spoke to me about her, over her head. My repeated gentle suggestions to "Ask her." went largely unheeded. They were just...unavailable. I could go in to detail but that's not the point. They interacted more with their machines than with us.

Worst of all, the PA who saw us, because the doctor is never available, dropped the Surgery Bomb absolutely heartlessly and then...left. My daughter freaked out. As anyone would.

I did what I could to reassure her, but, not being a surgeon myself, I wasn't really able to explain how the surgery would work or what it would be like or how they did it.

After a little Conversation in which I shared our Extreme Disappointment in the treatment, Persistence and I headed to the hospital for yet another tests: an X-Ray.

By now Persistence was getting hungry, so I rooted around in my purse and came up with four quarters. She happily put in the money, pushed the buttons for her selection and waited for her Sun Chips to fall. Except, they got stuck, right on the ledge over the opening. Nothing I did dislodged them.

Persistence and I -- who had held ourselves together through a lot already -- found this kind of the last straw. She began whining and I got sharp.

Another mom in the lobby walked over to us.

And do you know what she did?

In the very nicest voice she said, "What's wrong?"

Persistence explained the machine would not give her the chips.

"Let me see what I can do to help," she said. And she did. She tried this and that. Eventually, she pulled out her own money, bought another item, and managed to get both down.

Persistence pumped her fist in the air and shouted with exultation. The other mom smiled.

My eyes filled and I mumbled a thanks through the lump in my throat.

"No big deal," she said, "You seemed like you needed help."

And just like that. Just like that. She saw us. She heard us. She was there. There when we needed her. For 2 minutes and $1.25 she saved us.

Everything felt inadequate, every word too weightless, every explanation too weighty.

"I can't tell you how much I appreciate this," I said, "Thank you."

"You're welcome," she told me. She returned to her family. She was not in a better position. She was at the hospital for her child, same as me. She did not have some major privilege. She had a heart and she shared it.

Wherever she is, whoever she is, I sincerely hope someone does the same for her when she needs it.

I know this is a natural end point of the story but I have to go on. Because there is another Good Samaritan. Two more, actually.

Shortly after the Save the Chips situation, we got called back. I hesitated...Helpful Mom had been there first. The man called our name again and I said to Persistence, "That's us." But we still did not get up. Helpful Mom said, "You know, we've been waiting there a reason we haven't been called?"

I braced myself. All day at the ENT we'd hit the big Not My Problem I Don't Care Wall. I waited for the man to tell them to just be patient. I waited for him to not care. I waited for him to make them feel Unimportant. As we had all day.

But this man stopped short, "You have? I'm so sorry, how frustrating for you. Oh no, let me go check..." and he came back again full of apologies and said they'd help the family right away.

Helpful Mom turned to me to and apologized, "I'm sorry to take your spot..."

"Oh no, no worries," I said, "You were here first. I wondered why we got called before you."

We smiled and they headed back.

Within a couple of minutes, we got called back. It was the same sweet young woman we'd met before. She's very gentle and sweet, and great with kids. She chattered calmly and cheerfully with Persistence all the way back to the exam room. She explained the entire process. She made Persistence feel like a person, one she cared about. Afterwards, she let Persistence come back and see the X-ray. She pointed out the parts of Persistence's body, naming bones. Persistence LOVED it. She felt big and important, and cool beans, she got to see inside of herself!

"I'm a skeleton," she giggled to me, "I'm a secret Halloween skeleton!"

As we left the hospital I asked Persistence if she wanted ice cream. She said she preferred a snow cone.

On we went to our favorite Hawaiian Shaved Ice Place, the SnoBall Hut. The young lady who we saw so often there during the summer was there again. She was sitting at a table studying.

I braced myself. We'd been treated too often that day as Unwelcome Interruptions to Better Things People Had to Do.

Instead she stood, and said in a happy to see us voice, "Oh hello!"

She welcomed us, gave us a beautiful smile, and chatted happily with us both. She fixed Persistence's snow cone. As she prepared to hand it over, my eyes lighted on a selection of sour flavors, "Hey look Persistence, they have sour cherry, let's remember that for next time!"

Looking at Persistence, the kind young woman asked, "Do you like sour flavors?"

"They're my favorite!" she said.

"Well why don't we add a dash of sour to the top!" the young woman said.

Persistence hopped on her toes with excitement. She rewarded the young woman with an exuberant, "YUM!" and beaming smile.

Maybe this sounds very ordinary. Maybe it is almost a dull story. Went to rude doctor's office, went to hospital, lady helped with chips, service lady gave service with smile.

But truthfully, it's become extraordinary. It is extraordinary.

In a day where those I trusted to help us, failed, it also provided a stark contrast and reminder of how kind and helpful health care professionals can be...when they do their jobs right, with heart.

It was a hard day, it's been a rough road lately. But at the end of the day, I felt lucky...lucky to have some people who helped, who gave a smile, who were kind. It fixed it.


Kyla said…
Little things make the biggest difference so often. I'm so glad there was kindness for you amidst the struggles yesterday.
Rebecca said…
The little things, good and bad, are often the biggest deal. I'll still never forget, though it was 25 years ago, the stranger who came up to me as I sat in a hallway outside a professor's office, waiting for my turn at office hours. I was daydreaming, and probably looked pretty "checked out." But this total stranger came over and asked if I was okay. I must have looked not just vacant, but depressed. I was, and I told him as much, but I was so cheered by the fact that he took a moment to care, and to express it.
Rebecca said…
That is to say, I was okay, not depressed.
Julie Pippert said…
Kyla and Rebecca -- it really does make a big difference. When we do it, it seems like nothing, no trouble. But to the recipient, you never know, it can be the thing that tips the balance.
Magpie said…
Oh, J - I'm glad you found some good in a hard day.
alejna said…
Thank you for sharing this, Julie. It brought tears to my eyes. It is a wonderful reminder that our little acts of kindness really can make a difference.
linda said…
It also brought tears to my eyes, especially since I know and love Petsistance with all my heart too. It also reminds me of standing at the desk of the third hotel to stay in when homeless during the Bastrop fire. I was asking the lady at the desk just one more time if a room had come available that night since I had called everywhere with no luck and was picturing sleeping in the lobby. "No, I'm sorry," she said again. Just then a man turned and told me he would give up his room and stay with a friend. I'll never forget that kindness from a stranger at a moment i felt helpless, discouraged, exhausted, and hopeless. He turned my spirit completely around.
Lacey S said…
This is a beautiful post and it brought tears to my eyes. It's amazing how small acts of kindness (or rudeness) from a stranger can completely turn our day around.
Lacey @ And They Call Me Mommy

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