I am continually surprised by people.
My legs have been getting worse. Some days now it hurts to walk with every step and stairs have become my enemy. I find myself dreading the moment I arrive home and have to climb up the forty stairs it takes to reach my apartment.
By the time I reach the top I am out of breath from trying to keep walking, forcing my body to do what it apparently does not want to do. It is the same each morning, going to work, where I can feel the muscles in my legs start to convulse almost the moment I am out of the door.
I have tried walking at a slower pace, walking faster. I have tried breathing exercises, counting, trying to convince myself that I cannot feel the pain. Nothing seems to be working.
This morning was no different. Walking through the market, I felt my leg muscles start to contract and expand, contract and expand. Each step was becoming more painful. I could already feel my shoulder muscles knotting together, absorbing the stress of trying to walk.
I took a breather in front of one of the market stalls. A vendor was setting up her plants and flowers for the day and she smiled at me. She was a large woman with bright blue eyes, curling blond hair and a happy smile.
The following conversation took place in French. While I can speak it, I can’t spell it to save my life, so forgive me if I massacre it to pieces. I’ll provide translation for those who don’t know French at all.
“Bonjour,” she said. Hello.
“Bonjour.” I replied, smiling as much as I could.
“Vous et malade?” she asked. Are you sick?
“Non,” I said. “J’ai un petit grippe dans mon jambre.” I said. My legs are sore.
“Oh,” she said. “Es-qu vous et boisson des Tylonol? Un cafe?” Do you want some Tylonol? A coffee? Here, she gestured to a thermos that I knew held her days supply of coffee. For her to offer some to me seemed like a blessing.
I shook my head and smiled at her. “Non, merci Madamme. Vous et tres gentil.” No, thank you, M’am. You are very generous.
“C’est rein, Monsieur.” It’s nothing. “Faite attention aujourd’hui et passe un belle journe Monsieur.” Be careful today and have a beautiful day, Sir.
“Et vous aussi, Madamme.” You too, M’am.
I walked away from her feeling better. Such a simple gesture, someone offering me her coffee or something to take away my pain, seemed wondrous.
That a stranger would reach out to me lifted my spirits greatly. That she would be concerned enough to inquire about my welfare seemed forigen. It says a lot about our society that I was so shocked and thrown off balance by such a brief exchange of words.
I don’t know if she will ever realize how much she did for me with her simple act of kindness.
It was only when I got to work that I noticed my legs didn’t hurt anymore.