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July 2012 Archives

A Little Taste of Needing

I tore my right calf muscle more than a week ago playing basketball. I suppose I need to take more heed of advice from people who love me; that I am no longer young and in my prime, and that I need to take better care of my body. It is an awkward phase for me, where my body has aged but my mind refuses to believe it.

Many of us bloggers comment on life and society from the perspective of individuals concerned that more ought to be done for those in need. Hobbling around in crutches the past week has been an interesting flip: I was now the needy, at the mercy of the morning commuting crowd, hoping a seat be offered because the knee on my good leg is struggling to bear my weight in a moving train. On top of that I have to juggle two crutches, and a laptop bag. Sometimes two, when I need to work on my Mac.

It’s humbling.

My first train ride out was on a frenetic Monday morning. I squeezed into the train, and received a mixed variety of looks from the sardined crowd. Some looked upset that my crutches meant I took up more space, others look helplessly concerned, given it was impossible to move. After a few stations I stood right in front of a middle-aged woman seated in the “Reserved” seat, my crutches clanging softly against the steel railing. Sweat tricked down my leg as I struggled to maintain my balance.

The seat was never offered. Eye contact was never made. I didn’t have the humility to ask. I made a mental note to record the emotions that ran straight down the centre of my being.

Anger. Couldn’t she see that I was in need? The icons above the seat indicate that it was reserved for the elderly, pregnant and those with little children. It did not indicate crutches, but surely this woman couldn’t have been that dense! She wasn’t even asleep!

I calmed myself down. Once the anger subsided there was a very strong sense of pity. That we have become such uncaring people. It was no longer anger at the woman or at my suffering, but pity, that we were all victims of circumstance. We have been bred to compete, to fight for what is ours. To work hard for economic success, laying aside so many other things, that whatever little we have — even that seat on the train — became too precious to give up. We were a soulless band of zombies, grasping on to whatever little we could call ours. Our right. No one could take away what is rightfully ours, and we were surely not going to give it away.

The world we live in is fair that way.

On a separate trip on the train, this time on the way home, the crowd cleared a path for me, and an Indian man seated on the seat beside the “Reserved” seat stood up and offered it to me. I sat down, so very thankful that he had restored some of my faith in humanity. I smiled profusely and thanked him. It was not a feeling I was used to, but it was humbling (you’ll see this emotion comes up a lot) and comforting to feel part of a larger whole, where people cared about other people; rather than singular individuals watching out for themselves, governed by the rule of law.

An elderly man and his wife, slightly more sprightly than him, came aboard. The man in the reserved seat next to me offered it to the old man, and I instinctively stood up so his wife could sit beside him. The elderly man grabbed me by the wrist, and said, “no, you sit down. You hurt your leg.” A woman a few seats away stood up and offered her seat to the elderly wife.

The old man leaned over and whispered, “It was very gracious of you, what you did.” We chatted for a bit, and I wished him well before I alighted at my stop.

It was love that filled my heart. A revelation that love meant giving as well as being open to receiving. A willingness to help the vulnerable as well as allowing oneself to be vulnerable. It is only then we are truly intertwined; a real society, not just strangers who happen to be standing close together.

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