Friday, 28 March 2014

Hitting The Wall

Not everything about having ALS is bad. While I have written in the past about "ancillary benefits" of ALS, my comments have typically focused on the negative, on the things that this disease does outside of its direct effects, things like wheelchair issues, expenses, lifestyle changes, and onward ad nauseum. Yet there are some good things which have come to me because of this illness, gifts to be found in this dark pile of coal.

One of the things this illness has given to me has been the ability, inconsistent as it is, to see the world around me through kinder, gentler eyes; to see people and their lives more fully, from a more compassionate point of view. I suspect this more philosophical view of people and life has something to do with the increased amount of time I spend sitting, looking out my window, and thinking about stuff. This, by no means whatsoever, implies any great wisdom on my part. I simply get more time to think and ponder those things which are really important in life.

Last night was a great example of this. One of the waitresses who served our table at "Name That Tune" was having a really rough night. After struggling to get things done in a timely manner, she fell behind. Customers got impatient, there were some clear and intended remarks from a couple of folks about quality of service. The waitress did her best, but after the customers left I could tell she was very upset. I told her, "Don't worry about that. It seems like you are having a very busy night." A tear or two fell down her cheeks as she struggled to maintain what composure she had left.

I took a few minutes to console her, to listen to her, to understand all the things in her life that were going wrong, and how they had come to crescendo that day. I commented that it sounded like she had "hit the wall". More tears, and then composure returned. She went on to her work; a couple of friends and I continued to chat. I said something about all of us hitting walls in life and one of the gang said "The walls get bigger as you get older."

While that may be true in a general sense, that the issues in life get larger as your years progress and more complicated issues arise, there are some walls that come early to some of us. ALS was a big wall for me, yet I know people in their teens and twenties with this illness. That's a big wall, very early. While the walls we hit as young people seem large, a lack of life experience and perspective magnify their importance in our mind. As we age, we gain that experience and perspective. The walls are there, big and small; we just learn to handle them better, at least some of us do.

For me, the lesson was not that we hit walls. The lesson was that it took me but a few moments to tell a young person struggling with the challenges in her life that she was a capable, worthwhile person who deserved to be treated kindly. I am not sure I would have had the wisdom to do that in years gone by. In a busy, workaday world, I am not sure I would have taken the time to be kind, or to consider what else might be going on in her life.

Perhaps it is ALS, perhaps it is simply getting older, but I now realize for a certainty how simple it is to be kind and how pointless it is to be unkind. I will not be perfect in this; I will continue to fail. I will continue to learn and grow, taking the gifts where I find them, with gratitude that I still have time to learn life's lessons, before I hit the big wall at the end.

1 comment:

  1. 'gifts to be found in this dark pile of coal' << I call that treasure hunting.