Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Kindness of Strangers

On occasion I feel compelled to share a personal story with all of you. This one is a bit personal, and I am thankful that the Intrepid Junior Blogger has agreed to allow me to tell it, because it involves her, a bus driver, and two kind strangers.

On Friday the IJB was getting ready to go to school to write her final exam of Grade 8. She texted me from her bathroom downstairs (if you have teenagers you understand that texting while in the same house is not nearly as bizarre as it might sound). She asked me to come down, as she had just vomited. I went down and cleaned up, and she said she felt better. I asked her if she was sure she wanted to go and write her exam, as I was certain we could make other arrangements if she was ill, but she insisted she was fine and would go (stubborn little thing, no idea where she gets that quality, really...).

I dropped her at the school and while she indicated she was tired she said she felt okay, and she went inside while I went off to work. It was just about 10:30 when she texted me, saying she was at the bus stop outside Extra Foods in Timberlea, and had begun vomiting again. I flew out of my office (with apologies to my office mates, who kindly picked up the slack I left behind in my rush to get to my kid) and I went to pick her up at the bus stop.

When I arrived she was sitting in a small miserable huddle, feeling very unwell. She told me how she had written her exam and then gotten on the bus, and while on the bus and just as they arrived at Extra Foods she began to feel sick again, vomiting a bit and then rushing off the bus to vomit on the ground. I felt so badly for her, alone while she was ill, and then she told me she wasn't alone.

She told me how the bus driver, a young man, had followed her off the bus with paper towels and asked if she was okay. She told me how two women, an older woman and her adult daughter, had given her wet wipes to clean up and watched over her until she seemed a bit better. She told me how she had sat there long enough for the bus driver to leave and return, and how when he returned and still saw her there he had gotten off his bus to ensure she was okay. And maybe those small acts of kindness mean nothing to you, and little to them, but to this momma bear they are enormous. These kind strangers looked out for my child in her time of need, and frankly they renewed my faith in this community.

You see even I can get jaded and worn down by the challenges. Even I can wonder if we truly are in this together, or if we get so wrapped up in our own lives that we forget to care for each other. Even I can think that perhaps we are so self-immersed that we neglect to look out for those who are in need, strangers who may need no more than paper towels and wet wipes and a kind word. I had my faith in people, and this community, restored by a RMWB municipal bus driver and two random ladies who stopped to take care of the most precious thing in the world to me - my child.

I am grateful, as is the IJB, but I am more than that, too. I am proud to be part of this community, a place where three people see a small sick young adult and come forward to help her. There is true hope for a community where this happens, where we watch out for each other and where compassion and caring still exist.

I wish I knew who these people were so I can thank them by name. I have sent a message to the RMWB to let them know my gratitude to the bus driver, and so I may well be able to send him my personal thanks. I am unlikely to find the two kind women, but my hope is maybe they read this blog and will recognize themselves. I am so very grateful to all of them, because while the IJB was not deathly ill (she is already feeling much better, although it was a rough day on Friday) she needed the kindness of strangers at a time when I could not be there as quickly as I wanted to be. To those three people I say thank you - thank you for being part of the village raising my child. Thank you for being part of a community where we exhibit such concern and compassion. Thank you for not ignoring her, or just looking away. You have the gratitude of this woman, writer, and foremost, mom.

There is a greater lesson here, I think. This community is on occasion painted in a very negative light, in ways that seem to indicate that we have no compassion or caring or soul. We are portrayed in ways that seem to indicate we are not people who would stop to comfort a small sick young adult  - but on Friday three people defied that portrayal when they came to the aid of my child. And what warms my heart is knowing they are but three of tens of thousands in this community who would do the same, because we are a community that shows caring and compassion and concern on a daily basis. That is perhaps the greater lesson in all this. This community knows how to care - and on Friday, at a small bus stop in Timberlea, my daughter was on the receiving end of that compassion. I will remain forever grateful.

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