Small Stories for a Big World

In recent months, I have been using a cane.

I probably should have started using one sooner, but it took a while for it to sink in that hobbling around without one might be making the problem worse.

Using a cane helped quite a bit. It also showed me a bright aspect of the world that had been invisible before. Growing up, I was taught to hold doors for others, and that’s the role I had been filling. Now, people were holding doors for me. Seeing how many people are eager to help was a gift.

One day, I was heading toward the door at the Reynolda Branch of the library about the same time as a mother and two children. In the past, I would have hurried ahead to get the door. Hurrying is no longer an option. What happened this time was the mother told her daughter to scoot ahead and get the door for me. So I walked into the library with a girl eight years old or so holding the door. I smiled and said, “Thank you,” and she smiled and said, “You’re welcome.”

I have had teenage boys who I don’t think would have noticed my existence otherwise rush to get the door. When an older woman has held the door for me, more than once I have found myself thinking, “I should be holding the door for you.”

Around the house, I have gotten fairly comfortable having Sparkle Girl and Doobins and Garnet pick up things I have dropped on the floor, and do other things for me. Out in the world, though, I sometimes still have a hard time saying “yes” when people offer to do something extra.  

Seeing me walk into an ABC store one day, a cashier behind the counter asked whether she could get me whatever I needed. I thanked her and said I would be fine.

The other day, when I picked up an extra- large pizza at a local pizzeria, I discovered that carrying an extra-large pizza box would be far easier with two hands free. A couple was leaving as I headed toward the door. The man held the door and, as I walked through, the woman smiled and offered to carry the pizza to my car. For a second, I thought about taking her up on the offer. Instead, I thanked her and said I would be fine.

I’m hoping using a cane proves to be a temporary situation. When I was 40 or so, I had a severe health problem that stuck around for two years. As unpleasant as the experience was, it, too, proved to be a gift, in that it made me appreciate life in ways that I had not before. At one point, I asked myself whether I would be OK living the rest of my life that way. Although I certainly hoped I healed, the answer was clearly “yes.”

I hope to set aside the cane one day. It has been a positive experience, though, in that it has brought me gifts of kindness from others that I wouldn’t have received otherwise.


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