Crisis, Friends & Angels
My life in Ottawa took an unexpected turn or I should say ‘’dive’ last year when I had a very bad accident. I fell off my balcony located five floors above ground and when I hit the concrete below, I broke both my limbs and other bones in my body. I was told that I had been very lucky to survive. For the next six months, I was 2 months immobilized in bed and then four months in a wheelchair.
During this time of both physical and mental convalescence, my friends flew to my support from places as far out as Texas or Australia to become the wind beneath badly broken wings as I looked to them (my friends) for much needed love and support. In addition to the help I received from them, as valuable was priceless lessons they taught me.
The Wonder Of Faith
While I lay in the hospital bed, a lady I barely knew at the time visited me often and she brought me supplies I needed and liaised with my family comforting them with reassuring news of me. She quickly became a friend. She explained to me why she was helping me: her faith.
She believed her faith gave her the duty to help others, strangers included, in need and this selflessly. I was impressed that she came flying to my aid when she did not know me as well and all this out of a sense of humanitarian desire born of faith. While I was not and still am not very religious, this gave me the conviction that belief in all things good can make us and the world better and that faith is what we make of it.
Be Mindful And Things Will Improve
I was impatient to get back on my feet and in the beginning, I would often daydream of when I would go back home. As the days went by, I began to realise that I was in this for the long haul and despair became dangerously close to winning a permanent seat in my mind and heart.
My friends compassionately convinced me that while it was ok to want for things to be different, the best approach when all is said and done was acceptance of what was beyond our control and to live as fully as I could in the present. Eventually, I grudgingly took their advice and lo and behold, I began to enjoy life within the confines of what was. Where once, I only saw shackles, I began to see opportunity such as for example now having the time I always lacked before to read.
The Small Things Are Big Ones
Friends showed me support in small ways like bringing me doughnuts and coffee or food I liked when I was at the hospital and such things were in short supply or simply daily phone calls. They came to see me regularly, took me for drives wheelchair and all and made small talk which were priceless at a time when I spent my days mostly on my own going from surgery to surgery and medical test to medical test.
These small gestures were important to me because through them, I felt I was still the same person for my loved ones and not defined by my ongoing status as a hospital patient in an immodest gown and by the IVs that ran through me. I was still Kevin. These small gestures gave me a sense of personal legitimacy and inner strength and they taught me that sometimes even when there is seemingly nothing more we think we can do for someone in distress, a small act of kindness can result in unseen gargantuan emotional benefits for that person.
I have never had to assist a friend who was going through a health crisis and before this, I had often wondered what I would do if this were to happen. One of the big lessons for me was in such moments, the person needs the small things we take for granted: a bag of clothes, soap, help to get shaved courtesy of a broken wrist, puzzles to help pass the time. Again, small things which can mean the world or at least help someone’s world in small yet big ways.
It Is Ok To Show Yourself As Is
I had always wanted to show my best face, my best self to my friends. I think I also confused ‘best self’ with ‘perfect self’ because I wanted to be that sort of friend one is proud to have in one’s life or that I thought one should be proud to have: from in control of his life to self-assured down to the shamefully superficial such as aware of all the latest hotspots in town.
Through the accident, life dismantled this veneer of mine and left behind in its wake, a person with emotions as raw as they could be, vulnerable, unsure of how to manage his now out of control existence and health and dressed permanently in an immodest hospital gown. What I realized though was that my friends, my true friends, did not care about what I was or no longer was and even less about what I wore. They were too busy trying to help me compassionately rather than judge me while I spent my time convincing myself that judgement came from without when really it was from within. My loving friends just wanted me to get better and for that to happen, for them to be able to help me, I understood in time it was best I show who I was at that moment. Humility ensured but with that humility came quiet confidence and peace because I wore myself now without any bells and whistles, because I knew it was all right to do so.
I thus learnt that your real friends, the right friends, those who are meant to be in your life, will not judge you for being or not being who you want them to see you for but rather all they want is for you to be the authentic you at any point of your life because they care about you and not who you want to be. As of the moment I became aware of this, I stopped trying to be someone I thought people would love and I gave in to being whoever I was at that point in my journey. It was liberating and ironically, by letting myself see me through the lens of truth, I was able to grow and improve.
Cliché But True
At the risk of tedium, I will state one obvious thing that I have heard over and over but that I only truly learnt during this crisis: you know who your true friends are when help is needed. True friends are those who will be there when you are at your most imperfect self and who rather than focusing on those imperfections, will focus on doing essential things, the sometimes slogging through the mud stuff that are not always pleasant or fun for them because they want to ease your pain, to help you get back to a better place, because they love you.
I would like to think of recovery from that terrible accident as having been a transformative process. The lessons taught by my friends were to me as part and parcel of this recovery as the medical care I received. I think those lessons were so powerful because they were taught in that best of ways: by example and not through lecturing. I now use these precious tidings of knowledge to make myself a better person and friend. What more elegant way to say thank you to those who behaved as my guardian angels?
Dear reader, thank you for taking your precious time to read this article. I appreciate it and I have a question for you: would you care to share below in the comments section with us all what positive lessons you learnt from your friendships? Your answers will help make the world a better place one reader at a time.
Kevin Chitamun created “PicturePositive“, a global Facebook group dedicated to capturing moments of positivity in photography and sharing them so as to help people who may need hope and to show them that life is worth it. Kevin learnt through life experiences and through PicturePositive that kindness and positivity can change the world and now he tries to spread them everywhere he goes.
Image courtesy of Helena Lopes.