independent

Tuesday 20 August 2019

Absence of kindness can cause hurt

FR MICHAEL COMMANE

IT'S OVER 20 years since I first met Tom. Tom is not his real name. At the time he was in his teens and when I gotto know him he had been involved in some minor petty crime. We met on a regular basis where we read English together. He had missed out much of his early education so, with his cooperation, we did some catching up together.

Some months ago Tom was involved in an accident where he lost one of his legs from the knee down. It was a horrific accident and he is a lucky man to be alive.

I visited Tom, who is now in his 40s, in the National Rehabilitation Centre in Dún Laoghaire last week.

I had been to the NRC about 25 years ago and I remember on that occasion being greatly impressed with what I saw. Again on this visit I was positively struck with everything about the place. The work that is done there to rehabilitate people, who have suffered the most terrible of injuries, is simply awe inspiring. And like in all hospitals, the kindness and friendliness of the staff is palpable.

I walked into that hospital a healthy man with the use of all my limbs. Indeed, I had driven there on my motorbike. I left it with all sorts of feelings: how fragile we are, how precarious our lives are, how fortunate, at least up to now, that I have been to experience such good health and never to have been involved in a horrific accident.

Tom showed me the mechanism that had been attached to his leg to which the prosthesis is to be attached. Initially I had trouble looking at it. But Tom took it in his stride and is adapting well to his new lifestyle. And that too had impressed and amazed me. I simply cannot imagine that I would be so brave and accept such a disaster in as 'easy' a fashion.

But there was something else about my visit to the NRC that made it special.

Chatting to Tom I did pass a quick comment to him that when he came out he would have to behave himself and avoid getting into any trouble. He looked at me and in simple and straight words asked me if he had ever been unpleasant, rude or not nice to me. I told him that he has never been anything but correct and polite to me.

'See, if people treat me with respect, I will show them respect,' he retorted.

Of course we cannot do damage to other people or their property to suit our own needs. It's never acceptable to be gratuitously nasty to another person. But Tom's words set me thinking. If we all could manage to respect each other, would our world not be a better place? I guess it would be.

Kindness can go a long way. Its absence can cause mayhem.

A few days later I was back in the neighbourhood of the NRC and called in to visit Tom again. This time I had more time to listen to his story. We all have our stories and there are those who will argue that we can't blame everything on our past. Each of us is responsible for her/his actions but gosh, our history, our past plays a major role in who and what we are.

Luke 6:31 comes to mind: 'Do to others as you would have them do to you.'. If we all did that or at least tried to do it our world would be a better place. And if I tried doing it I'd be a lot better off too.

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