Depending on the Kindness of Strangers

Well, I passed my “big test” by successfully completing a VERY full weekend of activities in Rochester, MN. (Note: This is where the Mayo Clinic is so most people who saw me hobbling around on crutches figured I was a Mayo patient!) But did I ever have to adapt my usual M.O., both for performing and teaching as well as just living life and getting around in general.

Here’s the thing: when you’re on crutches, you can’t carry anything with your hands, and certainly nothing that could spill. I’d learned that the previous two weeks at home. But this was the first time I’d traveled and that meant that while I COULD still wear my backpack I could’t manage a suitcase (or even a duffle bag without throwing myself way off balance).

So I had to rely on others to take me to the airport (bringing my bags down to the car from my 3rd-floor apartment), and airport personnel to get me from the curb to my gate (and to the bathroom and snack shop and through security), and the stewards to put my bags and crutches in the overhead compartments (and to get my backpack down once we’d taken off so I had something to rest my bad leg on), and then folks at the layover airports to get me from one terminal to another, and then my host pastor to shuttle me from door to door throughout the weekend and carry my bags up to my hotel room, and make special accommodations for my teaching and performing (all while seated — a bit of a challenge for me, to say the least!) from a stool with an additional chair to rest my leg on, and making sure the pathway through the chancel was wide enough for crutches and that there was a ramp for the stage at the luncheon after worship and people to pass out handouts … and then all those people at the airports on the way home and the friend who picked me up, detoured to a drive-up ATM so I could make a very necessary deposit, and then carried everything up the stairs to my apartment and made sure I had what I needed before leaving. It was all quite a humbling experience for this independent gal! I literally couldn’t have done it by myself.

The wheelchair pushers in the airports were of particular interest to me. I’d never really noticed them before but there are a LOT of them! (And, as a friend morbidly noted, if we as a country continue our obesity trajectory and cases of diabetes keep increasing and more toes have to be amputated, this may be the one secure job for the future!!) They were wonderful … and the recommended tips echoed this! (I’m really glad I checked online before leaving home because I would not have been prepared with near enough fives and ones — I spent $50 in tips on this trip! But it was worth it.)

As someone who makes a living depending on others to pay me a somewhat subjective amount for services rendered, I was happy to return the favor (especially for the poor lads who got stuck gettng all my stuff — laptop, shoe, crutches, bags, liquids, etc. — through security!).

My Left Foot

The surgery last Wednesday went well. I did NOT get nauseas (for which I’m immensely grateful since I don’t “do” throw up!) and I’ve been in very little pain. I only took the prescribed oxycodone for the first 24 hours or so and have just been on Tylenol since, one in the morning and one in the evening (and that’s mostly been preventative). Do you see the two little nozzles? Those aren’t for drugs; they’re a cooling system! I came home from the hospital with a small, 6-pack-sized cooler that had a little pump in it connected to two tubes that attach to these nozzles. I fill the cooler with ice water, plug it in, and cool water circulates around the injured area. How cool (no pun intended) is that? And what will they think up next?!

This obviously isn’t a traditional cast. There is a hard L-shaped splint along the bottom and up the back. There is “cotton batting” inside and around my leg and everything is wrapped up with the Ace bandage. It all goes up so high on my leg because they actually had to take a piece of bone from right beneath my knee to use as a bone graft for my heel fracture. I can barely wiggle my toes but can’t move anything else. The most frustrating thing is not being able to bend my knee. This means I can’t give my poor right leg a break by kneeling on a chair with my left while brushing teeth, washing dishes, etc. Boy am I feelin’ it in my right hip socket!

The big “test” comes next weekend when I’ll fly to the Minneapolis area for a full weekend gig. Thankfully the church has an elevator and I’ve already made arrangements with Delta for an aisle, bulk-head seat on all my flights and a wheelchair reserved at each airport. (If I’m not careful, I might get a little too used to that kind of pampering!) I’m sure I’ll be exhausted afterwards but thankfully I’ll have 4 days once I’m back home with nothing on the schedule except to have my first post-op appointment (June 23). At that point they’ll take off all of these bandages … not sure what they’ll put back on.

Let’s just hope the surgery did what it intended to do!

Slow Down!


I’m one of those people who is so afraid of missing a life lesson that I sometimes don’t even let the complete experience play out before I’m deconstructing it, analyzing it, and trying to figure out what I’m supposed to be learning from it all. So even before the actual heel break, I was already seriously wondering what was going on with all the foot pain. Was there some deeper meaning to all this? (FYI: I think there IS … but that will have to be revealed in a subsequent post!)

Ever since the break, however, the lessons have abounded. Today’s lesson? Slow down! Being on crutches, this would seem obvious; I literally can’t move as quickly as I normally would. But I’ve always been a bit of a bull in a china shop, moving (often with great force!) before thinking or planning carefully. Sometimes that’s worked; other times the results have been … well … akin to the damage a bull might do if let loose in a china shop. Today was more like the latter.

Because I’m not supposed to put any weight on my left foot, I like to keep it elevated even when I’m seated, including when I’m seated on the commode. So I’d moved a sturdy wooden chair into my cramped bathroom to use as a stool for just this purpose. But getting around it for other bathroom duties is a bit of a pain since there’s precious little extra space in there. Well, today it was a BIG pain (literally!) because as I attempted to hop around it to get to the sink I didn’t negotiate the narrow pathway carefully enough and I stubbed the pinky toe of my GOOD foot … stubbed it HARD! In fact, I think I may have broken it. What do you think?

That’s why the prayer request went out today for continued health and strength in my GOOD foot and leg because if THEY go, I’m in deep doo-doo!

“Breaking” News

I’ve been vexed with various foot issues for well over a year now. Turns out (among other possible things!) I’ve had a stress fracture in my left heel for some time that, due to several factors, I’d particularly aggravated in recent months. Well, I just went ahead and “officially” fractured the darned thing this past Thursday … in the stupidest way possible! I was heaving a box of glass and other recyclables up and over the bin at the recycle center and even though I BARELY jumped, I came down wrong (or “just right” as the case may be), maybe even on the edge of a broken bottle as I seem to remember hearing glass break (l’chai-im?). But what I know for SURE is that I felt a “pop” and intense pain. (How’s that as a “reward” for being environmentally responsible?!)

I was able to hobble back to the car but 15 minutes later when I got out of the car I wasn’t able to put ANY weight on it. Fortunately, my sister and niece were with me so Jill then got behind the wheel and drove me to an urgent care facility where they took x-rays. I didn’t need a medical degree to see the 1.5-2″ crack up the front end of my heel. They put a temporary splint on it and yesterday I spent the better part of the day at Mercy Medical Center getting more x-rays, a CAT scan, and consulting with an orthopedist. The CAT scan indicated that the bottom part of the fracture had been there a while because it had already started to … calcify? This means that there was only about a 50-50 chance that it would heal cleanly on its own.

So … I’m having out-patient surgery on Wednesday where I’ll likely get a screw or two (we single women gotta get it any way we can!!) and will then have a recuperating time of at LEAST 6-8 weeks (maybe 12), much or all of that time not being able to put any weight on my left foot. I’ve had crutches for about a day and a half now and am VERY sore (especially after going from one end of that hospital to the next several times yesterday — what’s a gal got to do to get offered a wheelchair?!) but I suppose I’ll get used to it. The biggest challenge, of course, is getting up and down all the steps to my 3rd floor apartment. Suffice it to say that I already have a MUCH greater appreciation for the Americans with Disabilities Act!

In true Tracy fashion, who never does anything the usual or easy way, this is no exception. I guess the type of break or location or something is atypical. (Actually, a fractured heel in and of itself is odd to begin with; it’s especially odd when it doesn’t happen due to a car accident or falling off a ladder or something like that.) The doctor even asked me, “How does it feel to make medical history?” Well, if it means they’ll give me a financial break for serving as a “guinea pig” for them then GREAT!

Doing Unto Others

There’s doing unto others and then there’s DOING UNTO OTHERS.

I remember once as a kid giving my explanation of the Golden Rule to one of my younger siblings. “If someone does something to you that you don’t like, do it back to them to see how THEY like it!” That’s honestly what I thought it meant. Lucky for me (and that younger sibling) my older sister gently set us straight. “Uh … I don’t think that’s what it means. It doesn’t really matter what others do to you. You should only do to them what you’d WANT them to do to you.” My sense of revenge and judgment wasn’t nearly as satisfied with this explanation, but the more I thought about it, somewhat begrudgingly, the more sense it made. Duh!

Have I always lived my life by this dictum? Sadly, no; but I have at least tried. Here’s the thing, though: I still think I’ve only really gotten it half right. It’s sorta been a version of “a sin of omission vs. a sin of commission.” I’ve tried to refrain from doing mean or hurtful things to others because I haven’t wanted those things done to me. So far so good … but that’s usually where I’ve stopped. Couldn’t “do unto others as you’d want them to do unto you” also mean overtly DOING kind or wonderful things for or to others because it would be fabulous to have those things done for and to you?

Now, I’m not saying I’ve never performed an act of kindness. But it’s not as common or frequent as it could be. And most of those acts, while considerate, have been pretty minimal or, more importantly, “expected.“ You enter a public building and someone isn’t too far behind you so you wait an extra moment to hold the door open for them. Or someone’s got their hands full at a store and when one of those things they’re juggling falls to the floor you pick it up for them. Or you let a car merge into your lane ahead of you instead of making them wait until you’ve passed them. All kind gestures I’ve done to others that have certainly made me feel good when done to me. And while small gestures do indeed matter, in the big picture, not only are these examples pretty tiny, but they required virtually no real or extra effort on my part.

Which is why I was recently blown away by, what I consider, a BIG act of kindness. I’d just returned from 12 days away in the Middle East, leading another of my biblical storytelling pilgrimages. One of my fellow travelers was also from Baltimore, and the mother of a former pilgrim (and current student) of mine. Her daughter, there to pick up her mom, met us at the baggage claim at BWI. Not only did she greet us with hugs and enthusiastic inquiries about our trip, but she was also laden down with gifts for us: bouquets of flowers (a particularly welcome and cheery sight in January) and GROCERIES (lunch meat, cheese, bananas, healthy chips, and packets of fancy, flavored hot chocolate). “I know what it’s like to come home to an empty refrigerator and the grocery store being the last place you have the energy to go.”

Well … I DEFINITELY know that feeling. In fact, I’ve experienced it almost monthly for the past decade. But for someone who so thoroughly knows what that feels like, I find it kind of sad that it has NEVER occurred to me to prevent that feeling for someone else. I mean, that’s the sort of kindness act that requires empathy, forethought and REAL action … the kind of action that’s more of an effort than merely stooping down to pick something up or delaying my progress forward by 5-10 seconds. Like I said before, those acts are nice and appreciated and when done to me have made me feel good. But THIS act made me feel R-E-A-L-L-Y good … for DAYS!!

The realization that I had the power to make others feel that good was a true epiphany. The bigger (and sadder) epiphany, however, was realizing that I might not actually be willing to put forth all that effort for others. I mean, there’s doing unto others—something I’ve got down pat—but then there’s DOING UNTO OTHERS, and that’s another story entirely.