Trying to be Good

While I appreciate and value the small dark side of my personality which makes horrible and cynical comments about pretty much anything you care to name, I do feel it is important that I make the effort to be Good. This is not just because I fear that when I die I will be met by a grinning dog waving a feather but because I feel it is the right thing to do; hence I slow down to let people in when I am driving (unless they are in a BMW or in an Audi with a suit hanging in the back), I let people go in front of me at the checkout if they have only a couple of things and I have a lot and should I make eye contact with somebody, I smile.
Something I don’t do is talk to people. If I wanted to make excuses about it I could claim it is because I am British, stiff upper lip and all that. It is, after all, one of the national characteristics to pretend that something unpleasant doesn’t exist whether it be a terrible meal in a restaurant, a large pool of vomit on the floor of a train carriage or a weeping person in need of some help. I always feel that it isn’t my place to get involved, that it isn’t my business.
Yesterday it was.

I was in the supermarket.
To be precise, I was in the fruit aisle looking at the Granny Smith’s before deciding on Braeburn instead. I had my stereo in my ears and began to walk forwards but, for whatever reason, I happened to turn my head enough to see that behind me a woman was sitting on the floor, her phone pressed to her ear and a man crouched beside her looking concerned. After a further surreptitious glance I realised she was utterly distraught and crying into her phone.
I stopped. I pretended to examine the rhubarb. I wondered if I should go over there and see if there was anything I could do to help. The very British part of me was saying no, that there was already somebody with her and that it wasn’t my place to. I glanced over again.
She was crying harder and the man looked uncomfortable, clearly unsure of what to do. I looked at her and a number of thoughts occurred to me.
First: That girl needs a hug.
Second: That man can’t hug her because he is a man.
Third: If Mammy were here, Mammy would already be hugging her.
Fourth: Mammy is not here.
Fifth: I have arms. I also have a hanky.
Sixth: Mammy would want me to help her.
Seventh: A word or a gesture can do more than you believe it will.

I gave her the hanky and I gave her a hug.
She was incoherent with grief and barely aware of what was going on around her. She answered the phonecalls on her mobile automatically without any real consciousness of what she was doing, reassuring the person on the other end that she was going to finish the shopping and then she’d be right there. From what she was saying, I understood her to have just been informed that a close male relative, or friend, had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
She was my age or maybe a little older. She had a child whom she had to pick up from Playzone. She had black hair and blue eyes and an accent that sounded Anglo-Irish at times. When a member of staff brought her some water, her hand was shaking so hard that she could barely drink it.
She kept repeating it: “He’s got Parkinson’s. He’s only 31.”
I hugged her and rubbed her arm. I told her it would be okay.
I said it to her again as she went with the staff to have a cup of tea but I have no idea if it went in. I hope it did and I hope that she understood what I meant.

Things are always okay. That is their nature. Everybody copes with whatever gets thrown at them because nobody gets the choice not to. You do it well or you do it badly but you always do it. Eventually.

It would be fatuous of me to indicate my hopes for her and her family but nevertheless, I still hope that she finds the strength and the peace within herself to do more than she thinks she is capable of. I hope she is not alone in this and I hope she can do what she needs to.