Empathy and beyond

Many years ago when my older son was around four, we happened to be at a ferry crossing in India. As we stood in line with the other passengers, waiting to go down the ramp into the ferry boat, I noticed a disabled man on a little cart almost at floor level.

His legs may have been paralyzed and I felt sorry that he must not have been able up afford a proper wheelchair. The gadget he was using was simple yet functional (much like a skateboard) enabling him to move, as he used his palms against the ground to propel himself forward.

While I felt sorry that he was forced to commute like this I could not help but admire his resilience in seeking to be independent in his own way.

I am usually hesitant to give alms to just any beggar on the street because there are many who pretend to be disabled when they really are not. But there was no doubt in my mind that this person was definitely genuine. I hurriedly fished in my purse for any change I could find.

Probably thinking this was an excellent opportunity to demonstrate empathy in action, I handed the coins to my son and asked him to give them to the man, explaining that we’d be helping him.

As we approached the man and my son reached out to give him the coins, I caught the man’s eye and for a split second I was confused. He looked at me with utmost kindness and shook his head ever so slightly.

In that moment I realized something that simply hadn’t occurred to me before – and I kicked myself that it had not struck me earlier. He was disabled for sure, but certainly not needy!

Because he was on a rundown looking cart and dressed in humble clothes I had assumed he was a beggar. I had incorrectly surmised that he could not afford a wheelchair. After all, who would choose to brush their palms against the ground when they could move in the comfort of a properly designed mobility device?

In that brief unspoken moment when our eyes met, something indefinable happened. I found myself humbled by the fact that he understood my intentions, yet held no grudge that he had been so completely misunderstood.

I think of this incident often these days when I am in the midst of doing something very ably with my left hand. Then someone will come along and offer to complete my chore, obviously assuming they can do it better because unlike me they have the use of both hands.

I try not to feel irked because I’d rather they appreciate my ‘ability’ rather than assume that my apparent disability is somehow limiting. But then part of me understands that they are coming from a place of caring – even though they are probably just as clueless as I was then.

I guess we all live and learn … and grow, through every little experience.

© 2018 G.A.I.L

A Matter of Taste

Like most women, I love a good bargain.

I guess this tendency can be a little irksome to men who don’t especially enjoy the thrill of foraging so to speak, and getting a ‘scoop’. When we enter a store my husband is more likely to make a beeline towards his favourite tried and tested brands, while I find myself drawn irresistibly to the bargain section.

Anyway the other day we happened to be talking about our individual styles of doing things. My husband threw in his perspective and insisted that he had much better taste than me. I pondered over his comment while he waited somewhat eagerly for my response. I suspect he was certain I would deny this, but much to his surprise I didn’t.

‘Of course you’ve got much better taste than me,’ I said with a merry chuckle, ‘Look who you’ve married!’

I waited impishly for my implication to register and when it did, I was rewarded with a sheepish grin. Yeah, he couldn’t really argue with that, could he?

I doubt he’ll ever accuse me again of poor taste!


© 2018 G.A.I.L

Drawing on a whim

When I was a kid, I once drew something I thought was pretty good. To my surprise (and chagrin) my teacher did not share my opinion and actually made fun of it.

My feelings were terribly hurt and feisty as I was then, I was quick to retort, ‘Can you draw any better?’ Fortunately it was in private and not in front of the whole class.

Over the years I’ve often thought about sketching  but never got down to it for one reason or another. Life happens… we get busy with parenting and other things and often dreams fall by the wayside. In my case, my right arm became paralysed after my surgery.

But strangely, I soon discovered a certain resilience I never knew I possessed. Some might call it foolishness, but it did not seem to bother me.

I decided I was going to try drawing with my left hand.

So I looked up a picture on the internet that I liked, and copied it free-hand.  I am always appreciative of artists who translate images they see in their mind’s eye and put them on to paper and I couldn’t help feeling grateful to the unnamed artist who had created this particular piece.

Needless to say, I was super thrilled with my efforts! Had I not attempted sketching, I’d never have known I was even capable of doing so with my non-dominant hand!  I suspect  my paralysed arm had  metaphorically opened a door of sorts and I’m pretty sure I’m going  to walk through that door often – and with gay abandon!

Art or not, here I come…


© 2018  G.A.I.L