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A Little HelpAugust 9, 2011

Cari's lovely post really spurred me back into Couch to 5K and I'd been enjoying running again. I had a great combo on my iPhone -- the c25k free app, and RunKeeper, and the amazing This American Life app (ALL their episodes! Dude!). I could run forever with these things!

Until I fell at Lake Merritt the other day while running. I wasn't running hard, but I was going along at a good clip, and BOY did it hurt to twist my ankle like that. But I roll my ankles a lot (thanks, Dansko) and I know I can just keep walking, walk it off. In a minute or two, I knew it would feel better.

But it didn't. The pain got worse. And worse. And even worse. I had to call a friend (the lovely Julie of the PensFatales) to pick me up and take me to the emergency room, and do you have ANY idea how much I hated doing that? Seriously, I tried to walk to my car. I couldn't breathe, it hurt so badly. I got out my phone and started to dial her. Then I tried to walk some more, and knew I had to either call her or an ambulance. I hated asking for that help, but she was SO good to me and so loving, and  two nice boys helped me across the sidewalk into her car, and she whisked me to Kaiser Oakland, where they were very nice to me. X-rays showed it wasn't a break, just a bad sprain, and I was bandaged up and sent on my way (after which I went to Whole Foods and wreaked havoc in one of their sit-in shopping carts).

Something about that day has been weighing on me, though. While I was sitting on the curb at the lake, one shoe off, crying because I couldn't quite make myself stop, only two people stopped to ask if I was okay. Now, I didn't need help. I was waiting for my ride, and there was nothing anyone could have done to help me, unless they had a bag of frozen peas on their person. I told the two who stopped that they were sweet to check, and I thanked them fervently.

But two hundred, perhaps, passed me, many of them looking right at me. Some looked worried, and they hesitated in their steps, as if trying to consider what to do next. Then they moved on.

And I've been that person. I'm not going to be again. I've seen women crying on the street, and instead of touching their arm and saying, "Are you okay?" I've just walked on, assuming it's none of my business. Perhaps their boyfriend just dumped them, or their mom just died. I'm sure I couldn't help in these situations. 

But what if I could?

After my first-ever book signing, we went to the Philosopher's Club. I may have had a few drinks, you never know. Late that night, when there were just a few of us left in the bar, I went to the bathroom. A woman stood there, sobbing, in front of the sinks. Maybe because I was tipsy, I asked her, "Can I help you? What's wrong?" Turns out that while we'd been toasting my book success, she and her friends had been mourning the loss of their good friend's child, who had just died. And I hugged her, and started crying with her (that part MAY have had something to do with the tequila, but you never know).

Even inebriated, it was most certainly A Moment, shared with a stranger. She kissed me on the cheek and thanked me and hugged me more, and when she left the bathroom, she looked a little tiny bit better.

And I think if, after my mother died, someone had asked me what was wrong as I cried my way around the lake, I might have told them. And if that stranger had hugged me, I would have felt better. Period. (YOU all hugged me online. I remember that. That helped, all the time.)

Now I'm going to at least ask. It's the very least I can do as a human being, and I'm ashamed of the times that I haven't.

(Aside: Of course, I'm not advocating going up to a crazy person on Market who's ranting and crying and kicking newspaper boxes. That could be dangerous, and requires a totally different skill set, natch.)


Boy, I hope this heals quickly. It's a pain. But Adah is helping.

ETA: Lorajean of KnittedWit fame just left a comment that had me tearing up. Yes. THIS is what I'm talking about:

Me and my boss at the time were going out to eat and came across a lady who had just hoped off her bike to answer a call. She had just found out that her brother died. So terrible. We stayed with her until her husband came and picked her up. Never hurts to ask.


Well, aren't we the perfect pair? I'm lying on the sofa recovering from hernia surgery--I was next door to Kaiser getting cut open while you were getting taped up.

Wishing us both rapid recoveries!

Apply cat to your sprain for quick healing... love it!

Aww, cute puddy. Sorry to read about your mishap, but the point you made about reaching out was a good one. Heal fast!

Sweetest picture ever!

Oh no!! So sorry...but I think you've got the best care taker right there. Cats make everything better. Take it easy. And if you need anything else, call. I'm a little far away *cough* but I'd be there.

Cats are so helpful that way! I'm sorry about your ankle, but glad that your crack medical team is there for you.

And you're right, we should try more to be there for each other.

Ouch! Hope your ankle will feel better soon. I love the picture of Adah with paw on your ankle. Adah knows you need some TLC. Ditto Michele's comment - she has it exactly right! Take care!

I've always been the one that complete strangers ask for help (and I usually give it). Can't ask for help for myself, but I'm really good at recognizing when it's needed.

Heal fast. Pain sucks.

Me and my boss at the time were going out to eat and came across a lady who had just hoped off her bike to answer a call. She had just found out that her brother died. So terrible. We stayed with her until her husband came and picked her up.

Never hurts to ask.

Great post today, it IS amazing how many will just walk on by. Glad that you got the help you need though!! Take it easy...great reason to knit!! Oh yeah...and my book will be here tomorrow!! YIPEE!

Oh dear, that sucks! I hope it heals up very quickly for you. And I am so sorry that very few people stopped. I try my best to always be a stopper. Same reason I no longer honk at people that sit at a green light - you never know what they are going through that is causing them to miss that the light has changed.

I'm not walking by again. You're right, we are afraid of being rejected, interfering, or other things. I'm going to pick the limb from now on, to go hang out on. Bless you for noticing.

Please feel better fast. Kitty will help...she's reaching out. Great post. We're all human beings & we're all in this world together. Yes, it helps to be a caring person. I have cerebral palsy, I fall a lot. Most of the time, people are very helpful.

PS My mom passed away 1 year ago on the 12 of this month & you reached out to me. I'll always remember that. Thanks.

You know, I had a similar epiphany yesterday. Late afternoon at work, I went to use the restroom and someone was puking in one of the stalls. We emerged at the same time (I know. Awkward.) and she was obviously trying to avoid my gaze, but I didn't ask if she needed anything. That evening, someone (I'd never met her) left yoga in tears and, even though I knew why, I didn't offer my condolences.

I'm not usually like that and it's been bugging me ever since. I can only hope I'll do it differently next time. Feel better, baby.

Oh no! Feel better, hope your ankle heals well.

And thank you for the reminder. I've been that girl crying on BART or Muni, just out of stress or a bad day and you know? Nobody notices. And I've been the person not noticing too, so thank you for the reminder to not be that person.

So I'm not the only one who rolls her ankle in her Danskos!

I hate being the center of attention, but I'm always thankful when someone checks in with me. I try to keep that in mind when I see others in distress.

Great post with an excellent point. Very sorry about the ankle - why is it that nasty sprains actually seem to hurt worse and take longer to heal than a break? I think the cat therapy, however, will speed up your healing nicely!

My copy of your new book arrived last night and I am starting it today. I have a feeling it's definitely going to bring up some emotions after the last 6 weeks, but guessing it will be therapeutic as well - your timing on this release is just a wee bit scary.

The short story... I encountered a Mom in the parking lot at WalMart, arm raised over her head, leather belt in hand about to lay it on two very small boys. I SCREAMED at her and called 911, there were nasty words exchanged as she hurried those little sobbing boys in to the car and sped off. I REGRET very often that I did not have the peace of mind to calmly and quietly ask her if I could help in any way. Why did I not ask if I could take her and the boys across the parking lot for a milkshake so everyone could cool down. In that moment why could I not remember how hard it is to be a Mom on some days. That experience has made me SOOO much more aware of those around me and affects how I handle situations.
THANK YOU for sharing your stories... Hope you are back on your feet very soon.

Ah - the laying on of paws. Why is it that our animals just jump right in to help and people - well, not so much.

Wishing you a speedy recovery!

So sorry about your ankle - sprains often are given less attention than breaks, but they are actually more 'permanent' injuries. You'll need some strengthening to compensate for the stretched tendons/ligaments. Adah has the right idea - laying on of paws. I didn't think she came down off her perch for anything except food!

Wonderful post today Rachael. Why is that we sometimes hesitate or don't reach out at all? Is it because we ourselves are afraid? Afraid of what might happen...afraid of getting caught up in someone else's tumultuous life, even for just a moment? I learned this valuable lesson many years ago when a total stranger helped me and I have never, ever forgotten her compassion. From that day on whenever I see someone in need I move forward through the doubt and hesitation and I simply remind myself that I was once that same person and how grateful I was that someone - a perfect stranger (perfect in more ways than one) - helped me too.

...and OF COURSE I hope your ankle heeds speedily and well. Cat love helps ♥

I hope you're feeling better soon. I sprained my ankle last year for the silliest reason you can imagine--I was on a stepladder at work and I spaced out and just stepped backward into thin air. I'm glad you're taking good care of yourself.

One thing that stops me from asking people if they need help sometimes is worrying that I will make things worse by bothering someone who wants to be left alone. As a socially anxious person I have been on the receiving end of well-intentioned efforts that actually made me feel worse, and I worry about doing the same to others (probably more than I should). When I do reach out to people and it doesn't go well, it's easy for me to get back in my shell and to be less likely to reach out the next time the opportunity arises. But when I think about it, I'd rather reach out and risk being rebuffed, or maybe making someone 1% more uncomfortable, than not reach out and miss out on the chance to make a difference for somebody. This post is a good reminder of that.

I'm just finishing up Week 6 and it feels great. Actually, quite marvelous for an almost 57-year-old. I had no idea you were running agoin. What funny parallel lives sometimes.

Please feel better soon!


Adah looks like she takes her healing powers very seriously. That picture made me smile at her sweetness, although I'm terribly sorry about your ankle.

I had a moment like your bathroom story not too long ago. My husband has been very sick and last month he had a colonoscopy. After it was all over we got the bad news that he has a chronic condition (ulcerative colitis) and the current flare up is very bad. Disappointing news as we were hoping for an easy fix.

With this information on my mind, I stopped by the bathroom on my way to bring the car around. Another woman and I ended up doing that awkward two-people-approaching-one-sink dance and I said, "Oh! I'm sorry. It's been a long day." We were both trying our best to sound light-hearted, but she told me her husband's c-scope had gone long and there was something about the look in her eyes. So I impulsively said, "You look like you need a hug. Do you want a hug?" She looked really surprised, but then she said, "Yeah, I really do." And we hugged for a minute; this really tight, really comforting hug. Then we both kind of smoothed our shirts, squared our shoulders, put our brave faces back on, and left.

But that hug! Something about that connection with a stranger, right when we both needed it most, was so strengthening and affirming. I'm so glad I didn't think about it too hard and just blurted out the offer because it really was a priceless moment.

Cat reiki - never fails! Seriously,. great post, and I hope you're over this soon. I know how much it hurts.

Your post made me think of two things, but first:
What a great shot of dear mysterious Adah!
I crashed my bike on a busy street. As I got up and limped to the curb, someone in a car stopped and asked if I was okay. Every time I tell someone I crashed my bike I make a point to mention that two cars stopped and one asked if I was okay, because it meant a lot to me.
It is hard to ask for help. I found the hardest thing to teach my kids was when, how, and the NECESSITY to ask for help. I'm still working on it (my kids are adults...technically).
I wish you a speedy recovery!

I so love your writing and your perspective, thanks for sharing both.

I hope your ankle feels better really soon. So sorry to hear about the fall, and about the hundreds of people who walked past you without saying a word to you. I would hope I would have been one of the people to have asked you if you were alright....now I will remember your story for when I do encounter that situation. Adah is so beautiful!

Great post today. I grew up in THE city of "move along and mind. your. own. business!" (um, NYC) Now I live in SC and walk awkwardly with the aid of a cane. I feel kind of silly when peeps stop and run over to open doors for me. I manage them quite well on my own, but a smile and a genuine thank you makes them feel so good!

Ada, what beautiful & unusual facial markings! Purrs & headbutts to such a sweet kitteh. Makes me miss my Mitzi, who would lick my face when I'd cry. Or my eyelids when I overslept & she wanted GUSHYFUDS NAO PLEEEZE!

OK, I actually did break my ankle 7 years ago when I stepped off a high curb while holding a pile of books from a University library. I sprawled into the street and cried out in pain. A couple in front of me turned, looked and walked on while another pair of students stepped around my books. I collected my books hobbled to my car, which was up a small hill and drove to the hospital, where I waited for my husband to fetch me. True story.

I grew up in a small town and if I had *ever* not helped someone, my grandmother would have heard and I would have paid dearly. I hold doors for people, I help old folks cross the street, I distract the kid who's about to cry at the market and get him to laugh, and recently when I saw a road rage incident (scary!) I positioned myself between the crazy screamer and some children on the sidewalk, just in case.

I'm also the person who falls, is going blind, has sudden migraines, etc., so I've learned how to ask for help. The hardest thing? Getting a fit person to give up a handicapped seat on the bus.

There's a strange form of alienation now as people can walk along talking on their cell phones, detached from tangible reality. It's a lovely surprise when someone actually returns my smile. ::sigh::

Sorry about your ankle. Love the cat reiki!

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Rachael loves it when book clubs read her work! She's happy to attend book clubs that read her books either in person or via Skype. Contact her at rachael@rachaelherron.com to make arrangements.


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