Monday, 4 May 2009

The kindness of strangers

My mother lives in sheltered housing in York, just around the corner from my sister. On April 27, just after my sister had gone on holiday, my mother was admitted to the Coronary Care Unit at York District Hospital with chest pains. Mum only allowed the hospital to tell us on the following day, when they established that it had been a small heart attack, and not the indigestion she had hoped it was.

My brother couldn't come up from Luton till Friday, and Mum refused to let my sister leave her holiday early. There was never any chance of my going down there. I was terribly upset, thinking that she would be alone with no family around her. Without much hope of anything coming from it, I posted messages in four UK groups on Ravelry, a large knitting and crochet website, asking if anyone in York could pop in and see her, and maybe take in some fruit.

I expected, at the most, a few kind messages saying that they hoped she was well again soon, and these I got. I also received six offers of practical help, four of them from total strangers.

The next day, Mum had a visit from one of these strangers, bringing fruit and soft drinks. She sat with Mum for half an hour, and then emailed me to say Mum was in the main ward now, and in good spirits. She refused to be reimbursed for the shopping she had done – 'It was the least I could do,' she wrote.

Another woman who worked in the hospital was all set to visit her that evening, and I had other people lined up for Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Luckily, Mum was discharged on Wednesday afternoon into the care of the warden at her sheltered housing, so I didn't have to call on them – but they were all prepared to go out of their way to visit a sick old lady, whom they had never met, just because they were asked to.

Another online friend suggested the chaplain, and another York Quakers. I did contact the chaplain, who sent a visitor to her, and I was about to contact York Meeting when she came home. (She knows a few of the Quakers in York, as my sister was housemistress for several years at Bootham.)

I was also inundated with kind messages of support, and enquiries about how Mum and I were doing, after she came home.

I would have expected this from my online friends, who are like penpals to me – we know so much about each other, and our families. But I didn't expect total strangers to be God to Mum and to me, and I was very humbled by the whole thing.


Jan Lyn said...

I commented on QFF, but couldn't help but continue on here. It's this talking problem I seem to have to many words for a Q...Just wanted to say that it is delightful when God appears in the unexpected. It's also a comfort to see needs met and a good reminder to me to trust a bit more. I pray your Mum is doing better each day....and you too.
Jan Lyn xox
LOL--you really can't get rid of me as I turn up everywhere :)

RichardM said...

It's very nice to hear about this sort of thing. There is a lot of good in ordinary people that we tend to underestimate because the bad news gets more attention.

America is a big country so people frequently move far away from their families. My mother is about a 12 hour drive and it takes two days to get to my brother. It makes it harder to stay close.