About 2 weeks ago I got the idea in my head to try making sourdough bread. ‘Got the idea in my head’ means I finally succumbed to pages and pages of internet content and social media posts about it. Plus a friend (or 20) on a Zoom call had been going on about ‘feeding her starter’. Plus my teenagers keep saying ‘there’s nothing to eat.’ Again. Despite my enthusiasm and the reassurance from the whole internet that it’s ‘so easy’ - I soon realized I didn’t have what I needed (surprise) and started out on a walk to the grocery store. Again.
This is where the story really starts…and actually has very little to do with the bread. I finished my shopping and was crossing a wide and usually very busy road towards home. The pavement and curbs have been resurfaced about 6 (maybe 12? Its all pre-Covid) months ago and they look strong and new now. And high. As I reached the opposite side of the street, I heard a panicked and frightened ‘OOoomph!’ behind me. I turned to look: an elderly man, possibly in his 80’s, looking somewhat crumpled and on the ground. His faded Union Jack burlap shopping bag had folded beneath him and he was already trying to scrape at the road with one hand to pick up his glasses, now broken. He had (as I look back on it now) stepped off the curb to cross the road but stumbled and fallen. As I ran back to try and help waving at the (thankfully only two) cars waiting to proceed once the light (flashing yellow now) changed. Blood was streaming from what seemed to be the poor gentleman’s nose…His hair and clothes were understandably ruffled and he looked diminished in his large coat, too heavy for the warmer weather we were having. My mind raced – how to help best, safest and now? Had he injured any joints? Was he confused? Why is he out alone? And what about keeping a safe distance or at least minimizing risk to him? And, ok I admit it – to me? I realized I had taken my mask off after leaving the grocery store (to breathe easier) but had used my hand gel…That’s as far as I got… This man needed help.
The drivers in their cars were waiting patiently, but this poor guy didn’t know that. He was obviously in Save-Myself mode. I tried to ask him if he had hurt his head, if any particular joint was painful – but he was already struggling to stand and amble out of the road. Blood still streaming. His posture was stiff and flexed forward (whether from the fall or for years now) and he fell again when trying to stand. Before I could ask any more or reassure further, he had another go. This time just barely getting his balance. I took him by the elbow and around his shoulders and he put one foot in front of the other, eventually reaching the other side of the road. He stumbled in his ill-fitting boots on the next high curb- but this time not quite so forward and I managed to help him descend onto his bottom. The cars passed us and suddenly coming in close were other people joining to help. One man on his mobile calling for help. A number of people offering tissues and wipes at arm’s length and asking if someone had called anyone for help yet. Someone asked our fallen friend if he had a name, if he was on blood thinners and if he lived nearby. The someone was a doctor. He didn’t stay long once he had gathered the most important information (His name, John. No blood thinners. Lives nearby. Seemed to be answering clearly) – the situation was not so critical he needed to stay. Someone remaining with the rest of us questioned his departure. I believed that doctor knew he was needed by many more people in weeks to come and was trying to stay as safe as possible…They agreed.
When the police came (which was quite quickly or else I was distracted) - the 3 or 4 of us still around our new friend seemed to stand protectively over him. I’m not sure why. The police were obviously in uniform and had an emergency medical kit…they were smiling. They wouldn’t really approach until we backed away. Huh? Oh, of course. 2 metres.
We then realised it was best to leave it to them and keep our distance. We moved along and on towards home, after wishing the man well and thanking one another for the support and help. I used another gallon of hand sanitiser, went home and put my clothes right into the washing machine. Washed hands again. Showered.
Truth be told I felt quite a lot of worry and regret after that. What if in helping this man I had transferred some of the virus onto him or his clothes? What if he was fine after the fall but now was going to be ill? What happened to him after the police helped him? Why didn’t I see him behind me sooner? I had to hope and believe in the best possible outcome. What was the point of anything else?
Yesterday I was in a queue at the grocery store. Again. Now bored and staying relatively still (not something I do) – I noticed someone walk by. It was the gentleman from 2 weeks ago! Carrying his Union Jack bag. His hair was groomed. Glasses on (new?) He was not in his heavy coat but was still wearing the not-well-fitting boots... But he looked well. It sounds too good to be true but I wouldn’t make this up. That would be what one of my very good Californian friends would call ‘Bad Juju, dude.’ I wanted to say hello …but didn’t want to startle or embarrass him and he passed before I could decide further.
We need to and we do make the best parts of our hearts and minds shine for others - but we can’t live life without some experiences and choices leaving some darker corners behind. It makes us grateful for and aware of the bright bits, I like to think. None the less - knowing he was doing all right brightened one of those spots. My story also made me realise the values and virtues we read about becoming more noticeable during lockdown (alongside the sourdough articles) …things like:
They really happen. They really are a ‘thing’. I’d like to think we find what was there already and not just new now. At that crosswalk. In our neighborhoods…and in our LEGS sessions. I learn so much from the LEGS team and participants every week. Before lockdown and even more now, they live these ideas and shine their best light. I really am grateful to be a part of them. Not least because in the last 2 weeks I have baked 4 loaves of not amazing sourdough and I need as much optimism as I can muster.