For the last five weeks my colleague Catherine Doran has kept my seat warm while I’ve been on an unexpected and prolonged break from work.
Last week Catherine wrote admirably and with her trademark bravery and honesty about her MS - and how she was forced (not for the first time) to justify her use of a “blue badge” when parking her car close to a doctor’s surgery.
It’s a sad indication of the lack of empathy we have as a society that she was forced to do that. That, as she was able to get out of her car and lift her young daughter without being in any obvious pain to the observer, she appeared to be perfectly healthy.
Have we not, as a society generally, learned that appearances can be deceiving? While the most obvious example of this is in cases such as Catherine’s - where her condition is not always visible - surely that extends into almost all corners of life.
There is a great quote, attributed to Plato, which states “Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”.
And that is true. Each of us has a situation which may not be visible on the outside but which impacts on us on a regular basis.
We are all dealing with the baggage of our life, past and present. We all have our worries. At times those worries and that baggage can feel overwhelming. But never expect someone to explain how or why they feel overwhelmed. These things can, and do, just happen sometimes. It can be hormonal and chemical. It can be a perfect storm of difficult experiences becoming too much to manage. It’s the bad luck of the draw. It’s not a fatal personality flaw.
Never judge someone having a bad day because you have had a bad day in the past and were able to get on with it. Everyone is different. Everyone has different ways of coping.
Never forget to be kind - to share a hug, or a cup of tea, or a friendly smile. Believe me that from experience that hug, or that cup of tea or that friendly smile from a stranger can make a huge difference to someone’s day.
Cut people some slack.
If we could all just remember that all any of us really want is to feel valued perhaps the world would be an altogether more pleasant place.
It’s not always easy, but when you can, smile, remember to be kind (because kindness really does cost nothing) and remember that everyone has their own baggage to carry. Help others lighten the load a little - you might find it makes your own baggage lighter too.