A touch of kindness
The incredible sadness and despair felt by a patient with a long term illness, for which there is no cure, touches every member of their family. Without proper support, many patients and carers, faced with a string of massive challenges simply to get through a day, often retreat into their own 'bubble'. It is as if the world around them, and their ability to connect with it with any degree of normality, has become a distant dream.
In those circumstances, the simple kindness of someone who takes time out of their busy lives to think about their's, can make a massive difference. Often the tiniest gesture can transform how these people think about their day.
I shall never forget taking my extremely disabled mother on a simple outing on one sunny afternoon. Strapped into a wheelchair, and with hardly any ability to demonstrate that she was engaging with her surroundings, I took her to our local park in the hope that she could, in some way, appreciate the flowers, the tiny bit of sunshine and the general atmosphere, even if she couldn't express her thoughts and emotions.
In a desperate attempt to provide as much stimulation as possible, I also brought our dog along for the outing. I had seen how they could bond in a way that she seemed unable to do with people. The dog seemed to intuitively understand her disabilities and she, in turn, would lay her hand on his back whenever I put the dog on her lap.
But with a heavy wheelchair to negotiate and a dog on a lead, I hadn't quite thought through all the problems that might beset us on this ambitious project, especially when I decided that no outing to a park would be complete without afternoon tea at the park's cafe.
Tying our dog to the railings, I then negotiated the heavy wheelchair up a ramp and joined the queue of customers. With time on my hands, I had decided that Mum and I would share a panini, a favourite of hers and something she would never be served in hospital where, so often, sloppy, pureed food was served as it saved time , being easier to swallow. Feeding Mum, one tiny bit at a time, would take ages but would be something I believed she would enjoy.
As I placed our order, outside the dog started to bark and I started to worry that she may be disturbing the other visitors. When our turn came, I watched the young boy unwrap the panini and place it by the grill. He then told me there would be a delay as several other orders were ahead of hours. When I asked how long, he told me it could take up to fifteen minutes.
But I couldn't wait that long. The dog needed attention and, as I wasn't allowed to bring her into the cafe, we'd have to go outside. With some difficulty, I backed mum's wheelchair down the ramp, grabbed the dog and went and sat down at one of the tables in the garden area.
Now I had a problem. The cafe did not offer 'silver' service, I couldn't leave the dog, and I couldn't leave Mum. So, how was I going to retrieve my order? As I didn't know the precise time when the panini would be ready, it didn't seem fair to ask any of the other customers to help me as they could be waiting for some time.
But, just as I was deciding that the whole project had been too ambitious, I saw the cafe door open and the young boy, aged about sixteen, emerged with our order on a tray. Spotting us, he came across and placed the food on the table, complete with napkins and cutlery.
"I cannot thank you enough for doing this,' I said. ' You can have no idea how grateful I am."
Staring me straight in the eye, his reply was simple.
"Please don't thank me. You can have no idea what a difference it has made to me to be able to help you in some small way."