Family of strangers?….

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In the family, happiness is in the ratio in which each is serving the others, seeking one another’s good, and bearing one another’s burdens.” – H.W Beecher

Today, I met Angela at the bus stop and summer is finally over (what a beauty the weather is…). Angela responded to my ‘hi’ and despite the drizzle, we both agreed that it was such a wonderful weather. Noticing my tremors and my staff of authority, she enquired more and having never heard of Movement disorders or Dystonia, I was pleasant enough to show her my health card which explains Myoclonus and describes the symptoms (saves me from having to do much talking) and in addition, states my medication. Quite a handy card, I will say. Being a little bit distraught with what she read and observed, she kindly helped me into the bus 29 and shared my seat, peppering me with questions borne with loads of sincere care and concern. A grandmother of Irish descent, she encouraged me to visit Ireland someday and complemented my sense of humour and cheer despite the ominous words that describe my condition, before getting off a couple of stops later. With an extra boost to my spirit, I continued onwards to my medical consultation acknowledging that I can never be alone no matter how bleak the days may seem. I have got a family in over seven billion people.

As a little kid, one of the phrases continuously drummed into my ears and passed on from generation to generation is ‘Do not talk to strangers!’ and as the years fell away and maturity set in, there inevitably followed a change in perspective and a greater appreciation of these childhood phrases and the appropriate application of wisdom and understanding. I recall vividly the story of the Good Samaritan that back in the days was as good a bedtime story as any and the underlying meaning behind the story: good neighbors (family) are those who help when you are in need and in the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu “You don’t choose your family. They are  God’s gift to you, as you are to them’. Now I have truly come round in my little circle of life to appreciate the depths of these words, family is not defined solely by blood but by a genuine expression of concern and affection and an unquenchable desire to help alleviate another’s burdens – that is what makes family. And as I plod through life, I am blessed to meet family in every race, of every age, tongue, religion. Hey! we all have one origin and One Father and so regardless of the inactions of a few, how doth that measure against the over 7 billion that populate the earth?

I love almond nuts, cannot seem to truly encompass the beauty of those little nuts but I sure do love them. On thursday, I met Dee for the first time, all the way from the States, my first meeting with a stranger who had heard of me and had determined to squeeze out some time during her hols with her large family to say hello. Knowing of my love for almond nuts, she had walked into a departmental store in the States, purchased that bag of almond nuts and travelled with it all the way just for me. What an enjoyable period of time we spent, talking about my challenges, the current medical procedures, life, hope and above all, the faith that so unerringly defines and dictates my life. Now many would say, what is a pack of almond nuts compared to my regular weekly medical expense of £150 at the very least (excluding consultations), and my response would be that life is not all about money. Without the thought, there can be no giving and the pack of almond nuts was and is a clear case of giving. Dee, in those few hours, alleviated my burdens with her light hearted chats and lovable personality. Affection, care and concern are not resources that have a price tag, it is an expression of true familial ties, one borne from choice and not dictated by ‘tell me if you need something and I will be family to you’.

I opted to attend my high school alumni meeting on Saturday because of Dee. Having made a hash of my directions, I paused to get some rest from my severely aching back and tired legs (just to mention a few) and then across came Ian as he hurried along ostensibly to meet up with a pre-arranged meeting. Stopping by, he enquired if I was ok and in response to my stuttered need for directions, he pulled out his iPad phone, dropped his duffel bag, typed in my destination and then pointed me on my way (my destination was just two apartments away). “No worries,mate” was his parting words to me as he retrieved his duffel bag and watched me head in the right direction. As I contemplated on the kindness of a stranger, these words hit me “I don’t care about whose DNA has recombined with whose. When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching — they are your family.– Jim Butcher

A couple of days back, I just had to do some errands – (I live alone) and help does not always come when you want it but things have to be done. A letter to post, a return to be made at ASDA and because of my mobility requirements, I just have to take a break now and then or face the inevitable consequences of tremors etc. I stopped by at Precious Moments to pawn my ring and also grab a chair and then I met Goli, beautifully wrapped in her hijab and ordering a pendant for her daughter. Devoutly muslim and a mother of four kids, she asked what she could do to make my respite better and enquired about my super hero outfit, yet again out came my card and with a ‘La il laha il Allah, Muhammad a rasool Allah.’, she fussed over me and after I explained where my hope, faith and strength came from even in the seemingly bleak situation – there is but one God and for every season, I trust Him to lead me in line with the reason, she gave it some thought and then delved deep into her purse, extracted a ‘prayer’ and handed over to me. Bading me well, she concluded her business and I was astounded by her public, unpretentious display of care and concern. “Strangers are just family you have yet to come to know.” – Mitch Albom

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As I receive countless opportunities of meeting various people, i count it a privilege not just to share my faith, my convictions, my hope but also to realise that I am never alone. Surrounded on all sides by strangers, I can now say that “The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.” – Richard Bach.We are all blessed with so much to give and yet we choose to be so constrained by our self centredness, not realising that as we walk through life, we all have the opportunity to truly understand what a family of strangers that encompass us daily. And there can be no words that can ever eclipse the actions of our hands. I look around and am amazed at the mass of dead seas that persistently choose to receive and receive and receive, choosing to deny the beauty of blessings that amount to us if only we can but give from the little or the much that we are daily blessed with. For there is but one truth, and no amount of denial will upturn it – how blessed are they that give, for it is in giving that we truly express but a fraction of the love that we continuously receive from God above.

I can recall the conversation I had with my sibling several months back, when he so vociferously attempted to make me understand that the few friends that have stayed with me will someday disappear and I will realise that family is what counts (whether they act as such or not). Now in retrospect, I realise that the circumstances we find ourselves shape us to become better, stronger and wiser and so like Scarlet O’Hara, all resentment is gone with the wind because I not only know that some friends stick closer than brothers but that family is neither something we choose or is it only defined by blood but also sometimes and in some circumstances“Friends are God’s way of apologizing for your family.” – W.W Dyer (quite a quip, isn’t it?). The truth is that when we truly love another and unashamedly express it, then we truly embrace the beauty of family and realise with sudden clarity that we are surrounded on all sides by a family of strangers. All we can and should do, irrespective of your circumstance is stretch out a hand and help raise another up because all around us are countless hordes who are definitely unconcerned about how much we know until they know how much we care and then we can begin to change the world by spreading God’s love, one person at a time.

For the many like me, who are passing through such challenging times struggling with dystonia and movement disorders, realise that we each have a family of strangers who unceasingly pass through our lives for times such as these and whilst we are seemingly compelled to succumb to the whirlpool of despondency and depression, we can choose to stand tall and make a difference whilst we yet stand. “Let us make one point, that we meet each other with a smile, when it is difficult to smile. Smile at each other, make time for each other in your family.” – Mother Theresa

Remember what a miserable tale ours would be if we choose to just exist rather than live purposefully.

lמסתדר טוב עד שניפגש שוב בזמן שלו

Adios!

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