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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Two Neighbors

Something happened this afternoon that gave me intense feelings about two fellow residents of our apartment complex. I like to share food for thought, so I'm sharing this incident with you today.

We had quite the blizzard here in Colorado yesterday. Trent and I stayed warm and safe, and cooked up a big pot of stew. When the weather is cold, it can be particularly soul- and body- warming and comforting. Later on, a cake was baked. It was a great day for it. We had grocery shopped the day before, and there was no reason to go outside.

Today the temperature got to 45 degrees. The snow is shrinking, but there's still a lot of it, especially on many of our sidewalks. Since I didn't get out yesterday, and we're expecting something in the mail, I decided to slip on my shoes and coat and head over to the mailbox. The sidewalk from our front door to the mailbox was only partially cleared. I was pretty sure I would be coming home with wet shoes, but no big deal. As I followed the curve in the sidewalk, I noticed a man from one of the buildings across the way heading to the mailboxes as well.

When I got to where the sidewalk slopes down a few inches and yields to asphalt, I noticed that there was a lot of melt water running by, and it looked pretty deep. And before the melt water, there was quite a bit of fairly deep snow, at least a foot to a foot and a half in spots. I took a breath and headed forward. That's when the waterlogged snow shifted. It's funny how in those split seconds you manage to think several thoughts. I'm falling, I thought. I hope I can get back up, I thought. My neighbor will see me when he finishes checking his mail and will help me get up, I thought.

There I was, limbs all at awkward angles, and unable to get myself into a position that would allow me to get back on my feet. Snowy water was seeping into my underpants. All of my private parts were doused in ice water. Both of my shoes were soaked and squelching and my hands were submerged in the water and snow. No matter how I turned, I couldn't get any leverage to stand up again. I tried rolling and I tried rocking, to no avail. My hips were further down than my feet, I think, which made it even more impossible for me to get my poorly functioning knees in a position to lift me. This is why I never soak in the bathtub anymore, I thought.

I saw the man coming out of the mailbox shelter and my heart lifted. He'll ask if I need help, I thought. No such luck. He made a show of being engrossed in his mail and went on his way, passing within feet of me and not acknowledging my situation and likely discomfort or possible pain. My heart fell even lower than my stranded body. What would I do?

A few minutes later I saw a car pull up to the mailboxes. A tiny woman, nay, a tiny lady, jumped out of the car. "Do you need help?" she asked. Yes, I sure did. She tried getting me up from the right side and that didn't work. I still couldn't begin to raise my body up. She was going to try and find someone to help when she decided to try from my left side. She took my arm and let me brace my hand on her leg, and I finally got up, shaken and already hurting.

When she asked me if I was going to be okay I began crying. What really hurt, I told her, was that someone had walked right by and acted like they couldn't see me. She let me hug her while she told me that she knew what it was like to fall down and need help. A few years ago she fell in her apartment, hitting her head on the bathroom sink on her way down. This broke her neck and she was unable to get up by herself. So this small, gray-haired woman who was about as big as a minute, as Gram would say, was my hero and rescuer today.

I wish I could understand why the other neighbor didn't do so much as acknowledge my presence. As I showered (and cried, I'm embarrassed to admit) away the cold, and hopefully some of the pain that will be moving in on my body, I wondered what motivated him. Maybe he deals with others' problems by avoiding them. If he doesn't see them, they doesn't exist. Maybe he was afraid that he couldn't lift me up because he has arthritis or a bad back. Of course, he could have asked me if he could go and call someone to help me, and I would have been so very grateful. I made a joke with Trent about it after I got out of the shower, on the premise that laughing makes the pain and indignity fade away a bit faster. "I know what it is, honey. He thought I was only acting like I was hurt so that I could lure him over to help me and then pull out a pistol and rob him. That's what it was!" 

I feel ashamed that I cried after I got up again. It's just so humiliating and dehumanizing and frightening to be in a position of complete helplessness. And having someone ignore you at a time of need makes the emotional pain even worse. I am so grateful for the woman who didn't think twice, she just knew someone needed help. Kind of reminds me of, well...me. As for the other neighbor? I still love him with the same love I have for all of my fellow humans. If I hobbled to the mail tomorrow and saw him flailing in the snow like a turtle on his back (Hey! That is a great description of the position I found myself in today!) I would fly to his side as quickly as I could and try to help him get on his feet again. I hope he never finds himself in that position, but if he does, I hope that someone will care enough to help him. I really want to believe there are lots of people like the kindhearted woman who helped me today. I hope so.




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