Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Need a Hand?

My hand began to concern me a bit yesterday, as it resumed swelling after two hours of being iced and turned purple around the knuckles. Also, my thumb went numb. Worried, but uninsured, I called my sister for advice (she's a nurse) and she told me that I needed to get a splint for my hand and refrain from using it. This was easier said than done.

My problem was that my car was still buried, and I was down to one good hand and one steady foot (remember the swollen, twisted ankle). So, thus impaired, I valiantly managed to beat the snow and ice off of my little car. It took me half an hour and cost me the life of my snow brush (it just couldn't handle the ice). I then ran into another problem: I couldn't get the car out of the parking space, owing to the pile of snow behind the back wheels. With no shovel, I couldn't dig my way out, and applying the gas pedal just made my tires spin. Desperate and in almost unbearable pain from jostling my hand and ankle (not to mention the pain from the two banged-up knees), I called the office at my building to see if maintenance would come help me, or just spare a shovel. Chivalry, evidently, is now decomposed in its unmarked grave: the terse reply was that if they did it for one person, they'd have to do it for everyone. Somehow I doubt anyone in the apartment complex feeling jealous of maintenance loaning a shovel to a nearly-crippled single woman, but they could not be prevailed upon. At this point, I felt about as alone and friendless as I have ever felt.

I waited inside for a few hours, hoping that the sun would melt some of the snow, and worrying about what would happen if I were unable to get out in time for class. I don't know any of my fellow graduate students very well yet, so there was no one to call for a ride or a tow. I considered calling a taxi, but realized that I only had two dollars in cash at the moment. Taking the bus was also out of the question, since I would have had to walk all the way to the bus stop, and considering all the black ice and that injured foot, there was no way I was going to attempt that. It was a pretty miserable two hours, spent worrying, trying to ignore the intense physical pain, and feeling completely uncared for and unseen.

Fortunately, the sun did come to my aid, and I was eventually able to back out over the snow, applying more pressure than I have ever used on the gas pedal. I went straight to Kroger, where I found a comfortable splint for my poor left hand (which was swollen, purple, and hideous at this point). I stopped at a Subway to get a footlong sub for my lunch and dinner, knowing that cooking would be very difficult to do with only one hand. Then I went to Liberty, where I spent the next nine hours making up the canceled appointments from last week and attending two classes. My professors were very sweet to me, offering to help me to my car and such. Being cared about was a tremendous and much-needed tonic for my mood.

After class, I picked up some more groceries at my much-hated local Walmart (we have more bad weather on the way, so I was concerned about getting snowed-in again, plus I needed some things that would be easier to prepare in my present physical state), where I was reaffirmed in my opinion that, except on Liberty's campus, chivalry is now a rotting corpse. People ignored my obvious limp and stepped right in front of me, nearly tripping me twice, and one woman even smacked right into my splinted left hand in her exuberant need to grab a can of vegetables RIGHT NOW (clearly, she would have died from malnutrition if she waited for me to move). She didn't even have the decency to apologize when I gasped and recoiled in pain from her collision with me. I don't want to get on a soapbox here, but why are people so selfish that they impede or further injure an obviously already-injured person just to fulfill their own wants a little quicker? Since when did speed supersede kindness, mercy, and general politeness as a virtue?

I came home, examined my throbbing hand, and found that the collision at Walmart increased the swelling a bit. My thumb had gone numb again, so I removed the splint to see if it were a factor. This increased the pain, so after an hour of no improvement in my thumb, I put the splint back on. I slept fitfully, the pain in the hand consistently waking me up. Pain medication did a little to help, but not enough. Today, there is no improvement. It is still an ugly, swollen, incredibly painful appendage. Typing this entry has taken forever, since I am typing one-handed. Don't expect any more long posts for a few days, dear readers!

I typed this post not to complain and whine about how much pain I'm in, but to bring attention to something that has been troubling me for quite some time: the complete disregard that so many people have for others. People seem to think that they are islands, whose actions affect only themselves, and whose cares and energies should be directed only toward themselves. My friends, this is an unacceptable way to live. The smallest action on your part has the potential to substantially impact someone else. You have no way of knowing just what effect each action you take will have. For heaven's sake, please show just a smidgeon of concern for others, and help me in my determined battle against this distressing trend of selfishness. Your personal convenience should NEVER supersede someone else's well-being. If spending one minute waiting your turn patiently means not injuring someone else, then isn't it obvious which choice you should make?

A little over a week ago, two men gave up twenty minutes of their time to do what they probably thought was just a good deed - digging out my car for me. They had no idea that I was feeling depressed and lonely that day, and their actions suddenly reminded me that God was looking out for me, and that I had no reason or right to be sad. They had no idea that one action on their part made them heroes to someone with a need. At Liberty last night, one of my professors spent less than ten seconds of his time opening a water bottle for me when he noticed me struggling with it. He had no idea how much such a simple action helped: it made me feel that someone cared, it spared me further pain, and it allowed me to take pain medication, thus sparing even more pain about twenty minutes later. By contrast, one rude woman caused me so much pain that driving home was a living nightmare. Undoubtedly, she also is partially to blame for the trouble I had in sleeping. I used myself only for these examples, but obviously, these actions would have been very similar in result no matter whom they happened to. The point is, these small, seemingly insignificant actions do have significance, and have a ripple effect.

So, I am issuing a challenge to both you, my readers, and even to myself. Though I do make a conscientious effort to show kindness and consideration to others, as I know many of my readers do also, there is always room for improvement. The world is being overrun by people who care only about themselves - just read some of those t-shirts if you want further evidence of the kind of "virtues" being extolled today ("It's all about me," "My way or no way," "Princess," etc.). Let's rebel! Let's all go out and think about others, and be a counter-cultural movement of people not motivated by selfish desire alone. Let's make the boorish people the outcasts, and run circles of consideration around them. And please, if ever you see someone limping or otherwise impaired, or just someone who could use a hand, don't be hindered by this modern ideal of treating them the same as everyone else - spit in the face of modern thinking and hold the door open for them. Hand them the box they're trying to reach on the top shelf. Pick up the pencil they just dropped. Loan them a shovel. Dig out their car. Smile and ask if they need a ride to their car. Acknowledge that they exist.

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"