I posted how a single remark turned me round when my health was at its lowest. How it affirmed my worth when I really needed it. Which got me thinking of the power of words – verbally paying it forward.
My back won't let me volunteer, but I can give words instead of time, insight instead of sweat. I can pass along the lift that Erin, my naturopath, gave me. Being English, I was raised to be private, modest and never either make personal remarks or talk about myself. Which is why coming to Canada was such a relief. As one war bride I interviewed said, “It was like taking off my corsets!”
So newly liberated, I am daring to reach out, to look at each person I meet and SEE them. Not hurry past, but acknowledge their humanity and vulnerability. Since caring for my elderly father, I now see the bumbling senior in front of me, hand shaking as he slowly counts out change as someone who could be him. Patience was never my strong point, but I am learning humility.
So I am not right, I am not important, I do not deserve priority – I am human just like the tired mother toting a toddler. And the driver who pulls out, changes lane or similar frustrating behaviour could just as easily be me, late or looking for a street sign.
Although my back means I have less contact with people, I can give each one the courtesy of attention. What kind word could I say that would make her day easier. What would help her feel appreciated, understood, less weary?
Like the librarian, mindlessly checking out my books. Her hair was lank, her glasses thick. Easy to think “how dreary.” But look again: she is patient, probably her back aches or her feet hurt and lord knows what she may go home to each night. “You have beautiful hands,” I say and she smiles. When I look back she is standing taller, the librarian with the beautiful hands.
If I can give a fraction of the confidence that Erin gave to me with her simple sentence, then I will have paid it forward. It is shamemaking how easy it is to bustle through life, weaving through crowds, checking one's phone or bracketed by headphones. How rewarding to take the time to really SEE the other person, to take a quick reading as to how they feel: tired, frazzled, foot weary and acknowledge their humanity.