I am not an accident prone person. I am not a klutz. (Some other people in my family hold that title.) As a matter of fact, I used to be a decent water skier, snow skier, etc. Yet in the last five months I have had two accidents. The first one was when I slipped on a non-slip mat in my bathroom and broke my knee in half. It was agony! I can’t decide which was more painful, that or childbirth. The recovery time was supposed to be between six and nine months. I was about five months into recovery, and using one of those walker things with wheels and a little seat. For those in the know, it’s called a Rollator. (I used to think only old people used those.) I would push it to help me walk, and sit on it when I needed to rest. A little mishap with my Rollator led me to accident number two. I accidentally pushed it backwards, and the wheel got caught. This caused me to fall backwards, hit my head on the concrete and break two bones in my spine. My head felt like it was inside a giant bell. I had a concussion. As a result I have vertigo. It is now greatly improved but I still have it. The broken bones will heal on their own.
As you can imagine, with both of these accidents I have spent significant time in ERs, hospitals, rehab facilities, at home in bed, in physical therapy, etc.
What are the biggest lessons I have learned?
1) The importance of kindness. There were many times that I was helpless. I could not get to a bathroom, a bedpan or get food or drink. I was totally dependent on others to take care of me. Some of these people were kind, some were not, some were angry, some had an attitude and some ignored me. I can only tell you that the ones who were kind made all the difference in a pretty miserable situation. The ones with a bad attitude made a difficult situation much worse. Sometimes we really cannot do something to help someone, but we can be kind and that makes all the difference. My roommate’s visitor heard me telling the dietician I needed kosher food and she opened the curtain and handed me two KIND bars from her purse. That mattered.
2) Gratitude. Having long stretches of time when I could not get myself to the bathroom and had to use a bedpan was incredibly uncomfortable, both physically and emotionally. When I finally was able to take myself to the bathroom after more than two weeks I was so grateful. When I was finally able to take a shower after almost three weeks I was so grateful. Not just grateful in my head, but grateful in my heart and my experience. In the hospital the food was horrible. A visitor to my roommate brought me a jar of peanut butter. I was so grateful. Truly grateful. In my house I always have enough food for six months and it still used to feel like there was nothing to eat. But now I am grateful.
Lying on my bed in the hospital, I was just so grateful that I had a warm bed, my jar of peanut butter and that I could take myself to the bathroom.
In my five bedroom, 2 ½-bathroom house I used to feel like something was lacking. Now I know I have everything.
When I was in these facilities and these lessons were so real for me, I did my best to be kind and appreciative to everyone with whom I came into contact. Even though physically I was struggling, emotionally it was a very rich experience.
Kindness and gratitude together can change both our inner and outer world.
By Jewel Safren