The kindness of strangers

+Pictured

The kindness of strangers

NZD

New Zealand Doctor

 kindness of strangers 6
A loving family watches the sunset at Birdling’s Flat

In the wake of the horrific Christchurch terror attack, rural locum Martin London discusses how a simple act of kindness from a stranger can make all the difference after a traumatic event

Things can be different. It all depends how you approach them.

The appalling events in Christchurch last week have moved me to tell the story of something I witnessed several months ago.

Through the doors opening onto the small verandah of our first-floor flat, which overlooks a main road in Christchurch, comes the sound of squealing brakes and then a modest smash of metal on metal.

I hurry onto the verandah to see what has happened, part concerned medic, part being just plain nosey.

It hasn’t sounded too nasty.

One car was pulling out from a parking space; another, travelling at probably a normal speed, has run into the driver-side front wing.

It’s anyone’s guess whose fault it is, but clearly the day is not going well for the two drivers.

Out of each car steps a woman.

I hear no words, but they immediately embrace in a sustained hug.

It is wonderful to behold.

No recriminations. No inspection of the damage. Just a spontaneous connection between two caring human beings.

That they are women is probably significant – I have trouble imagining this occurring between men.

View from the balcony when the crash happened
General practice in action

Is this not what we need now?

Just focusing on kindness, acceptance and finding ways to increase our capacity for caring and sharing.

Believing that everyone has their own back story, which has brought them to their here and now.

Who am I meeting and what is life like for them?

It’s a question we have the privilege in general practice not only to ponder in our consultations, but carefully to explore with our patients if we bother and take the time.

But pressed with time and the plugging of clinical data into practice management software, how often do we really do that?

At Birdling’s Flat near Little River, Canterbury

Is this not what we need now?

Just focusing on kindness, acceptance and finding ways to increase our capacity for caring and sharing.

Believing that everyone has their own back story, which has brought them to their here and now.

Who am I meeting and what is life like for them?

It’s a question we have the privilege in general practice not only to ponder in our consultations, but carefully to explore with our patients if we bother and take the time.

But pressed with time and the plugging of clinical data into practice management software, how often do we really do that?

A meeting at Birdling's Flat

What is coming out on all sides from the shooting disaster with its implicit, no explicit, racism, is the need to hear stories from everyone in our communities, but right now especially from our Muslim brothers and sisters.

Up to now, it seems we have not been listening carefully enough.

On New Year’s Day this year, we went to watch the sun set at Birdling’s Flat near Little River, Canterbury.

An extended family I met there, lovingly interacting with each other, provided me with beautiful silhouettes for my photography.

Later, I asked from where they came.

Afghanistan.

It was a special moment to tell them how lucky I felt New Zealand was to have them in our society.

I do hope they are all still alive, even if they are just now questioning their own luck.