Keep talking, lady
Giving time to someone without strings attached is the most difficult thing to give
Someone asked me what I thought was the most difficult thing to give. It is simple. And yet very complex and difficult. Brought back a memory I had rather kept forgotten.
I said, time.
In the sense of giving it to someone without strings attached. Everything else is relatively easy. You can give money, throw a party, give advice, give old clothes, give charity, even give a pet a home. But can you give time, freely and for free?
Not to your boss because you want to score points. Not to your loved ones because that comes with joy and happiness and is a given. Not on yourself because that is usually a self-indulgence, may not necessarily be a bad thing and is allowed, but it isn't the standalone that I refer to in this context of giving time. Giving it when there is no comeback and no pat on the back expected.
Years ago, I was asked if I could read to a patient at the Rashid Hospital since that person was very fond of my articles and would be delighted. It was very flattering and I was delighted, too. Such a compliment and a nice thing to do.
Was this way to hell paved with good intentions? I wanted so much to go, and I meant it when I said it would be a privilege. Yes, you guessed right, I never made it. Either there was some function, other commitments, that 'putting it off' option we all arbitrarily exercise. Office work, one party we just had to attend, guests came over, was feeling a bit low, was tired, will make it tomorrow, stuck in the traffic - a litany of sad, pathetic useless excuses all designed to delay those 30 minutes of verbal commitment.
And so the days passed, and the promise faded like a painting left in the sun, and for years, I never gave it a thought. Did that person feel the sting of my neglect? Waited for the visit or simply let it be in the light of so many more pressing medical issues? Turned to the common friend and said, maybe a good writer but not a very nice man.
I have no idea who it was and, if I did, I would apologise profusely that I could not get myself to give half an hour, sharing my presence with a stranger. Have you ever done something that shabby, where you are not a bad person, you entirely intend to go through with it and then you do not? It is not even deliberate, the not-carrying-it-out bit, it just doesn't happen. I know, I share my story with anyone, they will be unsympathetic and say, how could you be so unfeeling, if it was me, I would have surely gone. Really, I mean, really, don't kid yourself, look back into your life sand see how often you have dropped the ball.
Though, having said that, there are people in the world, ordinary people, who do extraordinary things and seek no more reward than the satisfaction of doing what they do.
There is this lady my wife was telling me about. She is, for lack of a better label, a coma whisperer. Except she doesn't whisper. She goes to hospitals, seeks the family's permission, then sits with the person lying there and talks to him.
My first reaction is one of casual disbelief, like shrug, if it floats her boat, no harm. Then I began to think about it. At least she does it. She gets in a car and parks at the hospital and then gives off that precious commodity: time. For as long as it takes. And she is absolutely committed to her cause. She believes in it. And she gets through.
Former coma patient Geoffery Lean says: "To lie in a hospital bed, unable to speak or move - not even an eyelid. To understand what people say to you, and not be able to respond... To all patients in comas, let alone those diagnosed as being in vegetative states. I could hear every word." Another patient Kate Bainbridge is recorded as saying: "For much of the time I knew what was going on. I could not see, but I could feel and hear. I knew what was in the news - and, when I awoke, could repeat anecdotes that had been recounted to my apparently deaf ears."
Which is why I think this lady is extraordinary. And all the people like her. Also, why we should always assume the patient can hear. Joke, tell stories from the past, don't whisper and don't express concern because if you are positive, things can happen.
You, lady, have a beautiful mind. Keep talking.