Thursday, June 11, 2009

Never Depend on the Kindness of Strangers

In the play and movie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche Dubois utters the famous line, "I always depended on the kindness of strangers," as she is ushered out the door by men dressed in white, to the 'Crazy House'.

When I lived in Japan, a fellow co-worker lost her job. She was American and in her late forties or early fifties. She had left everything behind to live and work in Japan. In her mind she believed she had nothing outside of Japan. I called her early one morning and strangely got no answer. I found out from another co-worker that when she was unable to find another job, she checked into a hotel, wrote a note and then eased her life away with a bottle of pills.

Fast forward to Mexico City. I decided to step into a pretty little street side ice cream shop. There I was seriously contemplating the flavor and the size of the ice cream scoop. The palms of my hands laid against the ice cream display glass like little suction cups. My fingers were spread and splayed out in all directions as if I were trying to grasp my scoop through the glass.

The interesting thing is I can't remember whether or not I ever bought that ice cream cone. What I remember most about that day was the woman I bumped into outside of that ice cream shop.

She was in her eighties, living in a downtown apartment near the the very heart of the center of Mexico, near the zocalo. Stores were great, but apartments tended to be seedy there. What I found most incredulous or unbelievable was that she was living alone in Mexico and spoke no Spanish. Here is her story.

She said that her husband fell ill. All of their life savings were spent during his long illness. Her son had died in his forties. She had no one else. She moved to Mexico because it was the only place she believed that she could live on the small social security check she got from the US government. I'll never forget the moment I said good bye to her. I watched her back as she mounted the steeply inclined, narrow stairway, one step at a time. Her outstretched feeble arms shakily gripped the rails on either side. I stood and watched as she finally disappeared up the stairway and was absorbed by the darkness of the dimly lit passageway.

I never saw her again.

We never know how we will end up or end our days. What is important is to not wait until tomorrow, or someday, to plan. The saying goes, "People don't plan to fail, they fail to plan."
I can't even say that either woman failed to plan.

There are no guarantees in this life, except that we will all pass from it someday. Although we do not have control over our circumstances we can become aware. Part of being aware is doing the best we can to plan for our days when there may not be a steady paycheck because of illness, lack of a job, retirement or an accident.

If you do not plan, you may find yourself having to depend upon the kindness of strangers. If you do, you may not have the options that you would desire for yourself if you had other choices.

In addition, I would implore you to be that kind stranger that someone may have to depend upon. What that means is to have no expectations of others, prepare as best as you can for that rainy day, month, year or several years. Just as importantly, always treat people in need or not with reverence and kindness.

I hope that you never have to depend upon the kindness of strangers. I do hope that strangers can always depend upon you being kind.
Taking the high road is never easy. Have no expectations of others, only of yourself. Stay on that path to being and showing how truly beautiful you are and can be. Day by day, you will beautify all that you touch, bit by bit. The world needs a stranger upon which it can depend for kindness. Somewhere, somehow, someday, you may be called to fulfill that role. I know that you will perform beautifully!


ChocolateOrchid said...

Beautiful post! I agree.

Peace and blessings,

laura mcintosh said...

wow, that is so true, life has it's ups and downs. And unfortunatly when you have a down, more than likely the only person there to help you is you. So look after you and as you say plan. It wont seem so bad then.