I met Frank on Monday. He’s in construction. His wife works in printing with someone I used to work with. But even more interesting than that was his upcoming ten-year anniversary. He fell ten years ago, April 14th, on his head.
I heard about the precarious footing, the 32 foot, straight-down drop into a new construction basement, the blood, the non-blackout, the lucid conversations, the 911 call, the ambulance ride and the intervening years of degenerating spinal issues. That was what he wanted to talk about. That was, as he called it, his life changing experience. Apparently so.
One day I had two breast cancer survivors on separate trips. One, a double mastectomy just last October, and the other, a care giver at a senior residential home, who is now in remission. The experience gave her valuable insight on the daily lives of patients and has allowed her to be a more compassionate patient advocate.
Margaret, another passenger, was in recently for a simple recall and, a surprise to her, she needed brakes badly. Apparently she does not have a credit card so I took her to the bank - at 8:45 a.m. - and waited till she could go inside and see a teller. She was sorry she had to spend money on brakes. I said something about diagnostics and made a medical analogy. Well, she’s having a heart problem and while her kids think she should get it fixed, she just cannot wait to join her husband in heaven. She’s not doing the procedure. “No more. What’s the use?” She is getting new brakes though.
Today, Mike is getting over the loss of his wife late last year. He’s getting himself back bit by bit after six years as her principal care-giver. There is still all her stuff to go through. She was a hoarder and there’s a lot of it.
These things come up in a variety of ways but they are all encouraged by my willingness to listen. We all need to be acknowledged, listened to and heard alot more often than we are. The bonus for me is that many of them think I am a good conversationalist.
I understand I have a privileged position and valuable time to give in the shuttle. Maybe friends and family are bound too closely for these intimate talks. Maybe we should try harder. Maybe this is what perfect strangers are for.
Mind you, when I can, I do encourage people to share an upbeat story. I am working on those stories, little by little, that show purposeful, uplifting engagement @DoHappyBetter.
Read Patch Thursday mornings for ShuttleBug: stories with people in an auto dealer customer service shuttle van.
More stories here.