I’d Love to Help

Helping hands of love.

Cookies for the school fair? I’m your mum! Car broken down? This chick will give you a lift! Need to talk? Your gal pal will be there.

Now I’m no Mother Teresa. I haven’t dedicated my life to the service of my community and others who are less fortunate than myself but I do everything in my power. There are many instances in which one may find themselves and think, ‘Yeah, someone else will do that,’ or ‘I can’t be bothered/don’t have the time.’

I’m not one of those people. I’m a helper. A perpetual helper: forsaking all others including myself. Sometimes to the detriment of myself and/or my family.

heart hand

I can do everything. Really I can!

New Year’s Eve 2012 was one of those times.

Scene: Brighton beach, Adelaide (Australia) 10:30pm. We’ve seen in the New Year (albeit a little prematurely) with our closest friends and all our combined kids at a fireworks display they put on annually for the public. There’s families, oldies and an assortment of local youngsters (gee I sound old) swigging from bottles behind the backs of the local law enforcement.

I’d smiled at the sight of a couple earlier in the evening who were probably in their late 50’s. My mind wandered to that point in my life where I’d be sitting there sipping champagne in my togs while littlies whizzed by with sparklers, squealing, others building sandcastles. I’d have my husband by my side and I’d be wondering if my boys were ok because they certainly wouldn’t be hangin’ with Ma and Pa by then. We’d be well past our use-by-date in the cool, hip and happenin’ department by then. Perhaps we might be useful to do the 3 a.m pick up. We’d chink glasses, as this couple had, and drink in the New Year together with a heart full of love.

While my brain enjoyed the imagery, my sights were firmly on the kids. We almost needed a leash for Just 3 who was still two then. Keeping him within reach near the water’s edge while Halfway to 6 ran off to talk with boys from school took most of my focus.

The fireworks display finished for yet another year. We began to pack up when I noticed the lady from the couple I’d been in awe of earlier. She was curled on the sand with her partner nowhere in sight. Their chairs were still on the sand and the table still bore the remnants of their meal and drinks. Maybe her partner had gone to the toilet? Possibly to get the car if it was parked some distance away? Had she had too much to drink to walk without his assistance? I instantly brushed all thoughts aside as we ensured we had everything and everyone. Rubbish was deposited into a bag. Wet towels were dumped in with rashies and heads were counted.

Did the lady just twitch? Yes, there she goes again. I asked my favourite person in the world, Belinda, if she saw it. We watched together as the men were left with the charges.

‘Is she having a seizure, you think?’

‘Not sure……I think she might be crying.’

Without another thought I headed over to the lady curled on the sand. Placing my hand on her shoulder I asked if she needed any help. She was quite incoherent to begin with and the smell of alcohol drifted past my nose. Belinda was opposite me and together we tried to coax her to sit up. As she began to speak with more clarity we began to understand why she had chosen the cool sand as a place of respite in a crowd of many. The alcohol had loosened her tongue and although it made her difficult to understand, the stories and events she spoke of were beginning to link together to form a picture. A series of abusive events, the past marriage breakdown, the son who had taken his own life recently and the ever-present fear for her own safety. Officially now I am out of my depth but I cannot leave this lady in this state. What kind of person would I be to walk away? Reassure her everything was going to be alright and leave her to it? Clearly everything was not okay and I don’t do nothing when I can do something.

We asked her name and if she had her phone with her. Was there someone we could call? Someone with whom she was close and who lived close by?

Jan was her name and, no, there was no one else except the man who had left her there.

My main concern at this stage was not to leave her on her own. Belinda tried calling her partner that had left her there to find her own way home. This was to no avail so we listened, cared and managed to get her sitting up. She spewed forth details of the culmination of events from her life that had led her to the here and now: alone on the shore with no one to care for her except two strangers. Her skin felt cold where my hand was resting on her back so I offered her my jacket. The ‘thank you’s’ started as she began to sober and she was able to stand. For some reason she found linking arms with me gave her to courage to continue. Either that or I was just something to hold onto: both emotionally and physically.

Jan was attached to me so Belinda went off in search of back up. While Belinda was gone Jan shared scars and open wounds: tales from the life that she had led. I did nothing but listen and acknowledge with an understanding nod when appropriate. But really, what did I know? I only know that the human spirit of compassion is alive and well in me.

Three police officers strolled across the sand with Belinda leading the way and we were finally able to make progress, both for Jan and our journey home. My arm was still entwined with Jan’s and there was no sign I’d not be required for some time. Belinda’s arm had been given duty on the other arm and as well all stood arm in arm we presented a united force. Jan needed strength in numbers and she needed people on her side that night.

The partner (whose name I don’t remember or chose to forget) eventually arrived and attempted to have the police believe she was making it all up. Whether she was or not was not for me to decide. I do know what I believe though.

So with jacket in hand, a hug from a near-perfect stranger and many gracious words, my friends, my family and our kids made the slow loaded-down trip back to the car.

Belinda and I had done what we could do.

In hindsight I wondered about how many people saw that lady curled up on the sand. Did they notice and shrug it off? Did they not want to involve themselves? Do people just not care like I seem to?

I can’t do everything and I’m just starting to acknowledge that.

I can only do what I can do and that’s what I’ll continue to do until I can do no more.

I can do something because, really, what’s the alternative?

My children will know what it means to lend a helping hand.

Image from: here.

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Play. Date. Love.

‘I’d love to play. It’s a date!’

There is something to be said about the simplicity with which a child forms a friendship. The ritual is brief: play (sometimes names are not even exchanged), date (find out about each other’s likes and dislikes) and love (blissfully spend the rest of their time together with an occasional disagreement or two).

I have watched my boys, 6 and 3, meet new children at gatherings, celebrations and even at playgrounds. There is an unwritten creed in existence for children. The same cannot be said for most adults. At which point in life is it that we unlearn how to make the acquaintance of new people or do we not seek out new relationships to remain in our zone of contentment? Developing a new relationship takes time. It takes effort. There is an investment from each side.

I was faced with this predicament recently: to go beyond the, ‘Hi, how are you?’ or “How’s your day been?’ while waiting for the bell to ring to signal the end of the school day. My son was asked on a play date.

I knew that it was inevitable. The day had come. This was territory I had never ventured into.

I find making someone’s acquaintance a daunting prospect yet I would be forced to. My son is following in my footsteps, for the time being, and requested that I chaperone the ‘date’. There would be no ‘drop and run’ which the mother of the other child was expecting. See a play date for most is the opportunity to dispose of said child for a while and, maybe, get a manicure or indulge in a coffee that won’t go cold before you drain the cup.

So on this day I found myself in the relative comfort of someone else’s comfort zone where I was not comfortable at all. I had to take both boys as it was during the day while Dad was at work. I spent two excruciating hours there. In that time I worried about my boys waking the sleeping baby (not the proverbial baby-playdatethere really was one sleeping upstairs) or Just 3 being unable to successfully navigate the narrow stairway with two-way traffic. I wiped crumbs from chairs when the kids (5 in total) ate the home made fresh-out-the-oven cookies I had proffered on my arrival. I fussed over the fact that this home had no fences and at one stage Just 3 ended up at the top of the driveway near the road. The older children spent considerable time running away from Just 3 who, of course, chased them wanting to join in but inadvertently continued the game. I spent nearly 15 minutes in the downstairs ensuite bathroom, which was not much larger than the size of a public cubicle, when my boys decided to do their synchronised number two’s routine. Just 3 needed a change of bottom half clothes for….well I’m sure you can figure it out. Doors were being used like revolving ones, there were toy guns and swords that made noise and had strobe lights and I thought there’d be flashing lights coming to get me if I didn’t get out of there fast. Throughout all of this I attempted to hold an adult conversation with a woman who could not be any more polar opposite to me if she was floating in the water off the coast of Bermuda. She filled space with words: not of light conversations about the weather and what you like doing when you have spare time, but her life. Almost from start to finish. I, who am known to be able to hold my own in a verbal exchange, could hardly get a word in. So I listened and nodded and uh huh’ed in the appropriate places all while keeping Just 3 in my sights. The mother, either blissfully unaware or taking some time to rest while the baby was asleep, seemed to take it all in her stride. Toys being strewn across the path of anyone who dare enter did nothing to change her resolve. She was softly spoken even as a door was slammed for the 15th time and she politely asked her son to close it carefully as he dashed off and her words drifted in the air like dust.

As we made our way to the car I was composed, outwardly centred. Inside I was screaming, all muscles tense.

I had white knuckle fever on the journey home. It took 5 minutes but it felt as if I was on an exercise bike and wasn’t getting anywhere fast. My answer? A glass of red wine at 3:30 in the afternoon-something I have NEVER done before. This was my second option by a narrow margin to going out into the backyard and letting off the biggest scream I could create. The first option may have attracted unwarranted concern from my neighbours so I sucked it up. The. Whole. Glass.

In reflection, I did wonder whether that mum opened her own bottle after we left. Did she, like me, seek to quell the rising tension by forcing it back down again with her own medicinal glass? Maybe we weren’t as opposite as I had first thought. Perhaps adults need more than one ‘date’ to suss each other and decide if a friendship can be born. Maybe that’s why she handed me her card before we left. ‘Ben’s had such a wonderful time today. Give me a call and Ben could come to your place next time.’

‘The kids had a ball,’ I thought to myself. They were completely unaware of the cracks that formed in my veneer. It is all about the kids after all. I could hide a glass in the fridge if I wasn’t comfortable in my comfort zone. I wondered what we would talk about next time. Would she turn to me and say, ‘Well you heard all about me last time. Tell me all about you.’ Then it dawned- there would be no next time. She had expected me to ‘drop and go’ and that’s exactly what she planned to do on the reciprocal ‘date’. I wouldn’t need my secret weapon.

That’s why you’ll find me hanging with the kids next time. It’s so much simpler in their world. Play. Date. Love.

And the other mother can have her manicure and coffee too!

Image from: here.