Saturday, December 21, 2013

The kindness of strangers

For some time I have dealt with crazy, wacky, nutty, strange people in my life. We all do, really. And I wonder if the absurdity of bright lights and pumped up music and all the attempts to hold off the dark of the long nights in December doesn't in some way make things harder?
The day before Solstice, these lights fend off the demon dark
and offer light when, at almost 8 a.m. in the NW, there is little.
Mental illness is defined here as a condition which affects a person's ability to cope and live a normal life. All the disorders that are elements of an individual, when they begin to take over that person's life, become definers of the person, rather than allowing the personality to shine.

The holidays seem to bring added stress and a sense that we must all be a part of the whirligig action that makes up the days between Dec. 15 and January 2.

Depression is not just a temporary state of mind for some people, but a black dog that is waiting around the corner ready to pounce on them, overwhelming their ability to do the simplest tasks.

Today I crossed paths with someone who is usually very upbeat and positive, but he said something that made me realize that we just don't know what challenges the 'holiday season' can bring on.

And then later I witnessed something that gave me renewed hope for our species: an older woman was shopping and when she got to the cashier, realized she didn't have enough money in pocket or on her debit card to pay.  She apologized to the cashier for the trouble she caused by getting things that would have to be put back and started to walk away. Just then a man of about 35 years of age stepped up and said, "I will pay for it all. Merry Christmas." Everyone around was awed and there were tears in the eyes of the woman who clearly did not expect any assistance. I am grateful to have been a witness to this Universal love offering.

Blanche Dubois, a character from Tennessee Williams' play, "A Streetcar Named Desire," (and the movie) continued to dress and act in strange ways as she was trying to live in a world that her mind did not recognize. She said in her final line in the play, as she was being taken into a mental institution, "Whoever you are, I depend on the kindness of strangers."

Williams used the character of Stanley to drive home the point of Blanche's fragility, and to show how insensitive some people are to what is seen as mental weakness, as well as to point out that people in general have the belief that those struggling with mental instabilities are liars.

As a society we've come a long way in the effort to recognize that mental illness really is an illness, and various disorders are elements of mental health. I've not done a very good job understanding all of this. I'm discovering I still have a lot more to learn.

And perhaps there are people who will arrive at the intersection of your life now, this red and green season of lights that may be more confusing than traffic signals. Those folks may not know where they are headed, or how they will get there. Maybe this is the time to be a little more patient, remembering that even as strangers, we all seek a little kindness.
May your holiday be tolerable… if not
bright and cheery, and may you have signs
of hope along the way.

1 comment:

  1. dear sandy,

    this is beautiful. the kindness of touching, and inspiring. and thank you for reminding us that there are legions of those who are unable to experience the happy, merry of all we are bombarded with during the holiday season.

    much love and light to you, my friend,