Monday, January 30 2023 - 12:01 PM
lady writing in a notebook
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A Bright Spot While Sick

I’m almost always sick in the winter months. I fight like a tiger to keep germs at bay. Bleach and hot water are constant companions. But somehow I slip up and get sick. A grandchild’s sloppy kiss, a random hug, or a husband’s explosive sneeze, and there I am with stuffed sinuses, clogged ears, and running eyes.

At about day four of being sick, I rally and get myself out of the dull, suffocating house. A little trip to the dollar store usually helps. I found two greeting cards and a container of disinfecting wipes. Now I could go home and once again conduct germ warfare on the countertops and pen a couple of overdue birthday cards. My head began to pound as I took my bag. Then something happened.

On my way out of the store, I saw her. She got out of her vintage Cadillac and made for the curb. She stopped there and attempted to step up, but her knee wasn’t cooperating. Then she eyed the pillar at the edge of the sidewalk, but couldn’t quite reach that either. There she tottered, back and forth, trying to make it all work.

Helping a Stranger

I noticed how neatly she’d prepared for her foray out into the world. Every gray hair in place, a pretty scarf at her neck, an elegant long coat, and leather gloves. She wore lipstick. I smiled. It took me about 10 seconds to zip over and offer my hand.

“Oh, thank you,” she said, smiling back. “I just can’t get my knee to work sometimes. It’s arthritis.”

She stepped up easily then and I held her hand until she felt steady. “I know what you mean,” I said. “I have arthritis in my hips.”

Up close she looked about 80 and one of her eyes was red-rimmed. “It’s just the way it is,” she chuckled. Then she tipped her head up and looked at me, “For me, that is, not you.”

Perhaps to her, I looked young or maybe young-ish. Little did she know how haggard, sick, and old I’d felt all week. Her sweet cheerfulness was exactly what I needed. I was taken out of myself for a few minutes and very glad to be away from whiney me to aid someone else.

Right before she continued toward the store, she said, “I guess it could be worse.”

“Yup,” I said, “it sure could.” Suddenly I felt much better. I marveled at how an encounter of only a few minutes right there on the sidewalk in front of the dollar store was able to shoo my grumpiness away.

If I could talk to her again, I’d say, “Thank you, elegant lady, with the pretty scarf–wherever you are. How you brightened my day and, as you did for me, so will I try to do for another.”

If you liked this, you might also like Ride With a Stranger | The Value of Helping Others 

Susan Sundwall writes from New York.

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About Susan Sundwall

Susan Sundwall

writes from New York.

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