My Broad Brush

It is refreshing to read the real life narrative of someone battling MS when the story runs counter to the negative stereotyping of society that can become fuel for bloggers. That would be reductionism to make a point and make it again and again. I have written if not beaten into the ground that we are surrounded by the uncaring, the so-called chronically healthy. These are folks who know no illnesses and demand to keep it that way.
In a recent essay in the Boston Globe, The Difference a Caring Colleague Made, attorney Carol Steinberg introduces readers to a senior partner who lent a hand and pulled her up and *into his practice. “He was a wonderful, kind person. He was a hero of the legal left. He never was concerned with making a lot of money,” Carol told me on the phone.
I asked how Rob-that is how she identified him- was different from other lawyers. That might be the answer right there. He did not live to make money. The man chose to practice with Carol alone when his practice broke up. He knew she had MS. That did not matter. “When it got difficult for me to carry to court the piles of paper I needed,” she wrote, “he brought them for me.” Carol went on to write about his incredible generosity of spirit.
“More than once, I’d fall in the middle of the street,” she wrote in the Globe. “Without alarm, ignoring my embarrassment, he would lift me up and we’d continue on.”
And Rob and Carol started trying cases together. When judges ignored Carol’s wheelchair and insisted she approach their podiums, Rob would be there in a flash. “Where did this come from? I asked. Carol took a deep breath. “I don’t know.” The woman seemed speechless. When Rob died in May, Carol was now alone. She still is not sure what her next move will be.
This is but a vignette, the nice story of a successful person able to see more than himself in the mirror. Maybe I paint with too broad a brush when I criticize an indifferent society. Maybe not. There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one.

13 Responses to My Broad Brush

  1. Christopher September 29, 2014 at 5:14 pm #

    When we look at the world, the first thing we generally see is ourselves. We instinctively seek out “I” in the other, and controlling that is futile. But when we step back and honestly question what we are looking at… wholly new and incredibly diverse personalities come into our frame, and irrevocably change our point of view. We all wear big clown shoes. It’s just when we slow down, and are mindful, that we’re better qualified and more able to plant those shoes between all those toes.

    I think the lawyer found that being there for others relieved 99.999% of all of his human suffering through just plain mindfulness. Not easy to do.

    • rm cohen September 29, 2014 at 5:33 pm #

      There were other parts to him. Perhaps he was absolving himself of sin. On the other hand, perhaps he did that but once a year.

  2. Nik September 29, 2014 at 10:37 pm #

    I sadly believe the majority is indifferent. I have never been, but then even though I am new to MS, I am not new to health problems. Those of us who suffer or have witnessed suffering are much more sensitive to others. The amazing calm it has given me is a gift in itself. I never get mad at slow drivers or slow walkers or a person that doesn’t hold the door for me. In my mind I am already concerned about what that person is going through. Even my 12 yr old son has started to react the same way in situations. Where someone else might become impatient or angry , we shrug our shoulders and say “you just never know what they are going through!”. Even if its nothing I believe it’s a healthy way to live.

    • Richard September 30, 2014 at 7:02 am #

      That attitude is a gift to your son.

      R.

  3. Hilary D September 30, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

    There are some great supporters out there for us MSers. Luckily, I am married to one of them! Amy D, you rock!

    • Richard October 1, 2014 at 12:43 pm #

      Thanks,

      R.

  4. Jack September 30, 2014 at 3:59 pm #

    Stories about encounters with uncaring and unwittingly cruel people pop easily to mind, simply because they stand out as exceptions in to my general experience. When I was still working, there were some colleagues who created invisible barriers by assuming that my physical limitations were a reason for not involving me in some high-stress projects. I truly believe that they thought they were being kind. I needed to overcome the barriers by being assertive and insisting that the expectations for my performance not be influenced by my progressive disability. When I could no longer do the job, I would retire — which I did.
    When store clerks or restaurant staff address my wife when they should be speaking to me, I think it is because they have no experience dealing with a disabled person, not because they want to insult me. My response is to smile, respond as if they spoke to me, and hope that I have become part of their learning experience. It is not uncommon for a stranger to wish me a good day or ask if I need help with a door. People, men and women alike, touch me more than than they did when I was able-bodied. Not in a weird way but with a comforting, supportive hand on my arm or shoulder.
    I could go on and on, but I won’t. My point is that the story of the “Caring Colleague” may not be unique: there are more caring people out there than our own stories would lead one to believe. We tend to pay more attention to the unusual than we do to everyday occurrences. Our own perception and response to a situation often determines whether it should be accurately classified as positive or negative, If you believe that most people are good and caring, then you will encounter mostly good, caring people. If, on the other hand, you believe that most people are indifferent or mean-spirited, then . . .

    • Richard October 1, 2014 at 12:47 pm #

      Agreed.

      R.

  5. Dave Boden September 30, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

    What a fine man he must have been.

  6. Mimi October 1, 2014 at 12:00 am #

    It’s not that people aren’t nice or they’re indifferent; it’s that they’re too nice because they’re uncomfortable.

    • Richard October 1, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

      Sometimes, but there is the rare bird.

      R.

  7. Sarah October 1, 2014 at 11:57 am #

    Or maybe he was just an angel, here for a short while, to serve someone who he knew was needing some help.

  8. Joan Steinberg October 19, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

    Here is a link to Carol Steinberg’s article:

    http://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2014/09/13/the-difference-caring-colleague-made/KDr2TUjsFGwCpDMWOxmB5M/story.html