On Thursday I went to Tesco and the man at the counter ahead of me was on crutches and struggling to hold his carrier bags, he looked very stressed and I offered to carry his bags out to the car. When I put his bags in he took my hand and started crying, he told me he had severe depression and usually did his food shop online as he hated going out of the house. He’d been having an ok day so he’d decided to try and get a couple of bits from the shop but once he was there he felt really self-conscious and he knew he hadn’t washed in ages and looked like crap and had started to stress. My coming up and helping him had calmed and grounded him and he didn’t feel so trapped without the bags slowing him on his crutches. He thanked me and told me I had really helped in a moment where he had felt panicky and cursed himself for trying to come out.
Whilst this story clearly shows what an amazingly good Samaritan I am it also shows that we don’t know peoples context and the smallest thing can make a real difference.
When I was unwell I put off going to the hairdressers for months because my hair looked so terrible; I’d cut it all off in a classic Hannah not giving a crap moment and looked like a scarecrow. I also didn’t want to have to look at my overweight self in a mirror for an hour because at this stage I was living in a hoodie and joggers regardless of the weather and was avoiding reflective surfaces at all costs. I was so self-conscious when I arrived and I briefly explained why my hair was in such terrible condition; I can remember feeling so embarrassed explaining to her that I had actively created this look for myself and why I had put off coming for so long. The hairdresser promptly moved me over to a corner of the room without a mirror and used a partition so I could be slightly hidden, she brought me lots of tea and magazines and every now and then would ask if I wanted to see it. It probably wasn’t a big deal for her but it was massive for me, at a time when I was terrified to go to the corner shop someone made me feel safe.
I guess what I am saying is that i’m a big believer in taking the time to tell a stranger they look nice or helping someone with their carrier bags; they’re all small things but you never know how much of a difference they might make.