One of my joys this year has been to cycle the Bath to Bitton cycle track, drinking in the stunning colours, textures and light, and snatching a moment or two for contemplation.
Today was no different, except that as I passed another cyclist, pushing her bike, I could hear her distress as she spoke into her mobile, ‘I don’t know where I am!’ I stopped to offer help and she explained that she had been stung in her mouth and was experiencing the sensation of her throat closing over! She asked me to stay. (This is the point where it would be really helpful if I could spin around and reveal my true identity, as a be-caped cycling superhero!)
I could see a considerable amount of swelling on her lips already, and knowing that she only had a short distance to go to access an ambulance easily, I encouraged her to walk on with me. However, the 999 call-taker told her to sit down where she was, and then instructed me to cycle on to the station to inform the paramedics of her whereabouts. Off I shot, imaginary cape flying in the wind, to offer these vital directions to the paramedics, ‘She’s straight down there!!!’ (It’s a cycle track! What more could I say?!) Anyway, this task was good enough for me; I felt important, even vital to the whole rescue mission! If I failed to pass on the message, there was no knowing what might happen!
Arriving at the station I caught the medic’s attention, indicated how far along the track his patient was sitting, and offered to help in any other way I could. At this point, the real hero of the story placed what appeared to be a portable E.C.G. unit in my arms, commandeered my bike and sped off to the victim with impressive intentionality. The unit was REALLY heavy, but no doubt indispensable to the whole operation, so I slowly struggled on to the recovery scene, puffing and panting. The cyclist was sitting on the floor, face significantly more swollen, canular in situ, drugs being administered, and easy, calming banter drifting from the paramedic. I lingered awhile - after all I was part of the whole drama now.
As time went by I was aware of an internal debate, ‘Should I stay………?’ Surely there’s something that I would be needed for? I will loiter in a helpfully available but non-intrusive manner. ‘…….But then again, should I go?’ It must be really annoying having untrained passers-by, muscling in on your rescue mission when you’re a professional!
‘She’s a woman alone, maybe he will need another woman present?’ Not in the slightest! He was confident, she was calm and help was on its way. Everything was under control. I decided to wait until back-up could be seen in the distance, and then I cycled on.
As I journeyed back home, I pondered on the events of the morning and my personal response to this. I felt slightly deflated that I wasn’t of more intrinsic value to the mission and a little disappointed that I hadn’t trained as a paramedic when I was younger. However, the facts were that the cyclist simply wanted me to stay with her until help came – that was what she needed - no Lycra or mask required! I however needed to be more - and that was my issue! Wanting to play a vital part in a great rescue story may well reveal a deep need for attention or an unrequited yearning to be valued, but I also think it’s part of our DNA - part of every child’s daydream. Deep down we know we have the potential to make a difference no matter how small, to make the world a little bit better - to be that superhero. It’s who we are at our best……… grabbing a child before they step into moving traffic, talking someone down from a ledge, defending the weak, fighting injustice…… well it’s who we would be, if the need ever actually arose!
But come to think of it, most days it does! One way or another we all have to overcome some seemingly insurmountable problem, whether it’s doing a day’s work after having been up all night with a sick child, showing an aged relative for the hundredth time how to work the TV remote, standing up for the underdog, doing the right thing when it’s unpopular, owning up when we’ve messed up even though we might well have got away with it, forgiving someone who doesn’t deserve it, leaving the last bottle of antibacterial gel on the shelf for the next shopper in a pandemic, going the extra mile…..sharing, giving, listening, waiting. Stay until help comes, was all that was required today, but I wanted more!
How many tiny heroic acts do we do each day, but fail to register the difference we make. If we don’t stop to celebrate our small, but significant contribution now and again, we may end up as miserable cynics, always wishing we were someone that we’re not
and missing the amazing someone that we already are! In the end, winning the day comes down to small acts done often, the little things people really need, help that they might not even ask for; but you notice! These actions may not be heralded as worthy of awards, but to the receiver of your kindness, it might just be a lifesaver, changing the course of their day, their choices, their future. (I heard a story of a suicide plan that was thwarted, simply by a smile!) Never underestimate the power of these little gestures of thoughtfulness, tolerance, generosity, courage, compassion, availability.………or just simply waiting with someone until the right help comes.