Tag Archives: Good deeds

Tire Pressure

There’s nothing worse than getting a flat tire on Friday at 5:00.

Come to think of it, there are thousands of things that are worse: wasp stings, eczema, incarceration, halitosis, vandalism, corn smut, Milli Vanilli… and that’s just off the top of my head.

So let me rephrase it: A flat tire is a major inconvenience on a Friday at 5:00. Made even more so when you just got on the highway, you’re running late – and you happen to be quadriplegic.

Such was my husband’s dilemma a few days ago. But thanks to the kindness of strangers, he got through it a little less scathed. First, of course, we give a nod to the driver who alerted my husband to the flat tire in the first place, gesturing like mad to get his attention. The guy almost managed to communicate the problem before the on-ramp to the highway. Almost, but not quite.

My husband, of course, began to fret just a little bit, listening to the steady thump of a shredding tire as he crawled along the highway towards the nearest exit. Meanwhile, I called the nearest tire centre – Google helpfully informed me it was “CLOSING SOON!” – to let them know he was headed there.

The woman who answered the phone, Diana, was as compassionate as could be. “Oh no!” she commiserated. “We can put his spare tire on when he gets here, and that will get him home.” Our wheelchair van is secondhand; I wasn’t even confident it had a spare tire. “Now I’m going to cry!” Diana responded. (Spoiler: She didn’t cry. But she was seriously considering it.)

Luckily, my husband made his way to the tire centre before closing time. The workers were prepared to receive him, and one of them even knew where to find the spare tire in its secret hidden compartment made invisible by several magical enchantments.

They got the spare on. My husband was almost ready to set off for home (at the prescribed speed, a.k.a. a snail’s pace, with four-way flashers going). Just one more hold-up: They wouldn’t accept any money. Diana was insistent. “Absolutely not. I’m a hockey player!” she exclaimed.

We’re not sure what that means. Are hockey players extra-tough? Extra-sweet? Extra-resourceful? All of the above, probably.

We’re grateful for the good deed. Sometimes I don’t think people realize what a real difference they are making. You saved my husband in a pinch, Lady Diana.

SpareTire2

Our spare tire. So tiny and adorable.

Up Close and Very Personal

In my line of work, writing freelance magazine articles, I speak to a whole lot of different people. And some of them are vulnerable.

Sure, there are the polished experts – Canada’s go-to spokespersons on this, or the country’s foremost researchers in that. There are even the B-list celebrities (A-listers are out of my reach) whose very living depends entirely on media attention.

But lots of times, I interview ordinary people who have survived difficult, even devastating, life experiences. I’ve talked with women who’ve tragically lost their unborn babies. I’ve spoken to parents whose children have mysterious, unbidden, possibly life-threatening medical conditions. I’ve had conversations with men and women who have been depressed, even suicidal. I’ve questioned people who have endured other hardships large and small that have impacted on their day-to-day lives in profound and lasting ways.

At the end of the day, when a writer is switching off her computer monitor and powering down, she might ask herself: What’s in it for them? Why do these people open themselves up, at times ripping apart metaphorical stitches, to expose their pain to the world?

I know the reason. It’s because they’re convinced they can make a difference. They can show other people they’re not alone. They can give advice, so important and precious, advice that can only come from someone who has walked the same path. They can do their part to lessen the pain for the next person.

I know for certain this is why they do it. Why else would someone who is not a pathological egomaniac reveal such personal details to hundreds of thousands of readers?

And yet I was reminded of it again last week, when I interviewed a woman who had survived a potentially lethal disease. While we talked, she cried a little. But she was candid and honest and answered every one of my questions.

Afterwards, she admitted she had considered whether or not to go ahead with the interview. She’s generally a private individual, she told me. This isn’t like her, to tell her story to a national magazine. But she knew it was the right thing to do.

“If it helps even one person,” she said, “it’s worth sharing what I went through.”

You know what? Her decision may save a life. Or multiple lives. I am constantly humbled by the generosity of the women and men I speak to. It’s no wonder I love my job. I get to see the compassion of the human spirit – truly, up close and very personal.

ButterflyDamaged

We don’t get through everything unscathed, but we can leave a trail for the next person.

Optimism May Save Your Life

More and more research has been showing that people who are optimistic – those of us who generally expect good things to happen in our lives – may have a reduced risk of certain health problems, like heart disease.

Psychologists at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health have now released a new study that gives us even more to feel positive about. They found that women who are the most optimistic are least likely to die – from any cause.

Optimism seems to steer us towards a more wholesome lifestyle. And when problems do crop up, optimism helps us manage them in a healthier way: more workouts, fewer benders.

The best part is, you can make yourself optimistic. In earlier research, it’s been shown that just by concentrating on a positive outcome, or jotting down a few notes about what that would look like – I will nail that job interview, I will have a super-awesome time when my in-laws visit – you can heighten your own optimism.

Naturally, doing good deeds will also turn up your happy dial. Not only will you get a helper’s high, thanks to that inevitable rush of endorphins, but we predict you’ll also have a brighter outlook on life. How can you not feel optimistic when your act of kindness has directly resulted in more research for leukemia, or a warm meal for a homeless person?

And now we know that you could be lengthening your life at the same time.

Super-awesome.

smilingolderwoman

This woman is feeling extremely optimistic that she’ll get the new Louise Vuitton stilettos she wanted for her 95th birthday. (Photo by Robson Oliveira/FreeImages.com)

The Snake Whisperer

When psychology student Marissa Bowsfield heard rumours of a ball python on the loose near her university campus, she felt driven to rescue it. Burnaby Mountain, British Columbia, isn’t exactly a native habitat for the cold-blooded creature, so the snake’s odds of surviving on its own were bleak. Get this: Marissa tracked the animal, without a haz-mat suit, found it on a mountain trail, by choice, and then, using her actual hands, carried it back to her residence on campus. She fed it water and warmed it up, with plans to bring it to an exotic-animal rescue organization.

Believe it or not, it’s the second time Marissa has saved a snake recently. She caught another python earlier in the summer. A local paper reports that four snakes have been found here so far, raising suspicion that they’ve all been let loose and abandoned by one individual. So there may be several more of these reptiles slithering around. (Why am I smiling right now? Because I don’t live anywhere near Burnaby Mountain. Currently, that fact pleases me.)

Marissa shrugged off her bravery. “If it was something else, like maybe a giant spider, I wouldn’t have acted the way I did, but snakes are okay,” she told CBC news. For me, it would be a toss-up. I might choose the giant spider.

Then again, I might choose to stay home.

Here’s hoping someone rounds up the rest of the pythons… for the snakes’ sake. Yeah, that’s it. Only thinking of the snakes. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Joseph Valks / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Here’s hoping someone rounds up the rest of the pythons… for the snakes’ sake. Yeah, that’s it. Only thinking of the snakes. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Joseph Valks / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

The Heat is On

For almost a decade, I have spent part of every summer at a certain magical place. It’s fully described in this earlier post, so I won’t go into detail again now. Suffice it to say that, this year, we happily enjoyed the usual fun, food and frolic. Each day brought us remarkably perfect weather – save one. On our second-last day, the temperature dropped, the sky turned grey and a dismal rain fell all day, stopping just long enough for my daughter to take out a sailboat, fall into the water, and soak the four layers of clothes she was wearing.

Apart from the sailing, this particular vacation day was mostly made for sitting around: relaxing, reading and chatting, instead of the usual swimming, windsurfing and kayaking. So by early evening, the combination of low activity and abundant cuisine had us feeling antsy. My daughter and I decided to burn a few calories by speed-marching through one of the buildings, up stairs and down hallways, up hallways and down stairs.

It was thus on our travels that we almost ran over Grace, an eightysomething woman staying here for a family reunion. When we met her, she was pushing a walker slowly down the hall to her room, delicately balancing two cups of tea on her mobility device.

“Can we help you carry those?” I asked her.

“No, but you can help me with something else,” she said. “Do you know how to work the heat in these rooms?”

“Actually, we do!” I replied. I explained that we’d just worked it out for ourselves, as my daughter’s dunk in the lake had necessitated a drying out of various garments.

Grace, who’d thought I was a staff person, exclaimed, “Oh, you’re a guest here! You don’t even have to help me!”

As you know, it’s my personal policy that we all certainly do have to help each other, and I freely told her so. The three of us walked at a slug’s pace together, introducing ourselves and chatting. Once we reached her room, I showed her how to adjust the heat.

Grace promptly put it up to 90, the extreme upper limit. “That’s going to feel like a hot summer day,” I warned her. “That’s just the way I like it,” she countered cheerfully.

“Well, enjoy your sauna,” I joked as we turned to leave.

“You’ve been so kind,” Grace remarked. Then she added with a grin: “I hope someone is as kind to you, when you’re as old and stupid as I am.”

For the record: When I am indeed old and stupid (a case could be made that I’m already nearly both), I’m counting on all you younger whippersnappers to be kind to me.

And please remember, always, to book my annual summer vacation.

We had lake, we had dock, we had Muskoka chairs. It was all the makings of a quintessential Ontario summer getaway.

We had lake, we had dock, we had Adirondack chairs. It was all the makings of a quintessential Ontario summer getaway.