Thursday, May 27, 2010

Into the arms of strangers.

Remember when we were kids and our moms told us to beware of strangers? I think we were all told that. And many of us to this day claim that we share that same advice with our own kids.

The problem with that, it seems, is that we never really follow that advice.

Because strangers are who we most turn to in our time of need.

I went to about 5 homes just today that allowed in several strangers. Nurses, volunteers, home health aides and the like, many who were foreign, all of whom who would never have been noticed or talked to if they had been seen on the street or in the local supermarket.

Yet, these strangers were privy to an enormous amount of personal information, have access to homes that have never been open to strangers before and, for the most part, become a new part of the family.

They often see the patient in ways that the family could have never imagined. They often hug the patient more than the family. They all too often spend more time with the patient than the family.

It is amazing to me how easily we leave the stranger category and become the friend/family category as soon as someone needs help.

For the most part, you could say, well, we are not strangers, we are paid employees. True. But you probably would not invite over the guy that changes your oil or cleans your teeth or bags your groceries every week or the gal that makes you the perfect latte even though you talk to her at length about local issues and consider her an acquaintance. Why? Because they are strangers outside of your life, even though, they too, are paid employees.

So where does the trust come from? I suppose most of it comes from need. We need people to help us when we are down and out. Many even beg for help from outsiders, from mere strangers. We become trusting souls. We allow people to see us at our worst when we need them the most. Or perhaps because it is our worst, our criteria changes. We are more accepting. We are more trusting.

Many of my patients invite these strangers in as employees but then quickly see them as confidants and friends, essential to their lives. Sometimes for years.

Sure, occasionally that trust is violated. But it is often not violated by strangers; it is usually violated by dear family friends and sometimes family.

Greed is a bad thing. But I digress.

I am happy that people trust me enough to enter their life in a time of turmoil and great sadness, bewilderment, confusion and many times, hopelessness. I am glad they trust me to help them, to make some sense out of the enormity of the situation they now find themselves in.

I enjoy meeting and helping and visiting my patients. They enjoy not only the job we do for them, but the companionship we bring, often so lacking in this isolated world, even with family nearby.

I enjoy their companionship as well. Their insights. Some have become friends. Most will stay in my memory forever.

I guess now I will have to re-define the term "stranger" to my own daughter.

Reaching out for help is a good thing. Trusting people is a good thing. Letting people into our lives can be a remarkable thing.

There are so many people who truly want to help, who ask for so little in return, and who can make a huge, positive impact in our lives.

If only we can trust enough to let them in.

“To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.”
~~~George MacDonald

“We're never so vulnerable than when we trust someone - but paradoxically, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy”
~~~Walter Anderson

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