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Thursday, 23 May 2013

When life gets in the way of kindness.

Sometimes our own lives get in the way of us making time to extend kindness to others. Life doesn't always go our way: Things may break, our health may fail, our career doesn't always stay on track, we may struggle financially, we may fall out with a friend or may tragically lose a loved one. It's easy to feel like our problems are the worst in the world. We may want the world to just 'leave us alone' or conversely 'come to our aid'.

Sometimes we bottle up our emotions and communicate with negative actions that impact others ...and ourselves! We may be snappy with our loved ones, yet be terrified that they won't always be by our side. We may be angry with our parents, when really we're afraid of losing them. It may only take a whisper or a jibe to get us fired up and ready to hurt someone, when what we really need is their understanding...and they need ours.

Sometimes it takes life to 'explode' for you to step back and reassess honestly how we can best look after ourselves and others.

On Friday, following over half my life helping others with needs greater than my own, I was forced to re-evaluate and put my own needs first due to my illness and disability. I've never really done this and in fact, I'm not quite sure if I know how. (Maybe that's my problem). Consequently, I feel lost and lonely with a sense of lost purpose. Today, I was sitting feeling melancholy and, to be honest, a little sorry for myself, with my shaking body and two twisted legs. I looked up from my despair and to my right, looking straight at me with sympathetic, lonely eyes was a man. It was cold and wet outside today and he was wearing a torn, battered jacket that looked as old as he did. I was wearing a toasty fur coat. My legs spasmed in pain as I took in the sight of this beaten-looking man. Then it struck me; he only had 1 leg-and here was me mentally complaining about being able to feel mine! He was alone, nursing a single cup of coffee. He was turning the cup in his hands and it was starting to look as dog-earred as his jacket.

Pensively, I approached this man. I softly said, "I hope you don't think I'm being rude but would you like another coffee?" He graciously accepted, so I hobbled over to buy one for him.  As he glugged gratefully at the hot brown liquid, I went to leave him in peace. He beckoned me to join him so I accepted.

He began telling me his story. Seven years ago he was living happily with family in Wales but moved to Kent alone for work. He told me he lost his toes a few ago and over the course of the following years, he had infections that resulted in more of his leg being amputated. He explained that he had a false leg so could still walk. On day one in hospital following being fitted with a false leg he was asked to test his new leg and walk holding on to the walking bars. He did it on his first attempt, then turned around and walked back again. His physiotherapist stared open-mouthed and told him to stop and rest, but he turned around and walked back again, this time without holding on to the walking bars. His physiotherapist had never seen anything like it in her whole career! I was blown away by his bravery and tenacity. Most people would have given up at having their toes amputated.  He carried on working. More people would have given up following the infections and subsequent limb loss. He kept going. More people still would have given up when the remaining stump got so ulcerated and infected that the false leg became worthless. Yet despite all this, do you know what he said to me? "I'm happy"!

I was close to tears by this point. However bad you think your personal circumstances are, it's true what they say that, 'there is always someone worse off than you'. However, it's also true that your perspective of a situation greatly impacts whether or not you feel happy with your circumstances.

'The road to positivity is strewn with the abandoned vehicles of the faint-hearted'. Peter McWilliams.

In opening my eyes to everyone around me and looking out instead of looking in, I learned a valuable lesson. By extending kindness and compassion to someone who needed it, I got the same in return and a whole lot more. I was listened to, I was no longer lonely and above all, I was inspired.

However hard your personal struggle, be it a bad day, week, month or year, you have the power to decide that you can still make yours a GOOD life.

"If you want others to be happy practice compassion. If you want to be happy practice compassion." Dalai Lama