Lifting one another up in difficult times

Cathy Lussiana, AJC community contributor. Contributed photo
Cathy Lussiana, AJC community contributor. Contributed photo

Editor’s note: Clearly, the coronavirus is testing everyone’s patience and resolve. Yet, amid the uncertainty, a resilient spirit thrives.

To provide a bit of a diversion from the news around us, we’ve asked our community contributors to share their personal stories of optimism during these troubling times.

Their stories will appear frequently. We hope you find them inspirational. We hope they provide you with some perspective. And we hope they remind you, as captured in some of their personal stories, that we are all in this together.

‘Examples of kindness’

When I’m not biking the Beltline or the River Trail in Colorado, I might be biking in an Atlanta suburb with one of my grandchildren, who also enjoy the fun of biking and love to go out with me.

On an evening in late July, my 8-year-old grandson and I took off after dinner on a route we’ve done many times — heading out of the subdivision, down a main road, and into another subdivision. Here we ride for as long as we want — a bunch of different loops on quiet and mostly flat streets.

After taking a turn — I still don’t know how it happened; I was distracted — the bike went down in the grass. I landed on the sidewalk. More specifically, my right elbow landed first, taking one for the rest of the body.

When I felt my elbow, it felt strange, sort of like it was missing a big piece in the middle. But no pain. And all my other limbs appeared to be in working order.

As I sat there — undoubtedly a bit stunned — a woman a few houses away immediately came over. She saw me fall, and after noticing the bloody arm and elbow, she helped me up, and we walked to her driveway.

She went in for wipes, brought out water for me and my grandson and wiped down my bleeding arm and elbow. I just stood there in a bit of shock. Her husband, Jeff, joined us and the woman introduced herself as Dee.

She asked her husband if he could put our bikes in the back of his pick-up truck and drive us back to my son’s home. My mind worked through the offer. Yes, his truck and a ride would be the easiest. And then the opposite: I don’t really know these people. Should we be getting into their vehicle?

Reflecting back on that fateful evening, it’s not just the personal kindnesses shown to us — cleaning up the bloody elbow, providing water, coming forward to help and driving two strangers back to my son’s home — but that all of this happened against the backdrop of a pandemic.

There is a fear that exists, at some level, within all of us.

Think about it. In our current world of masks and social distancing, they put all that aside to help.

We weren’t wearing masks while biking, nor were they while sitting on their porch. Social distancing is also important, but that didn’t stop Dee from cleaning up my elbow and giving me water. Jeff took the bikes from us, without wiping them down first, and we were not 6 feet apart inside the vehicle.

They both took personal risks to come to someone else’s aid, and none of us (except the 8-year-old) is young.

My grandson asked later that evening about getting in a car with a stranger (smart kid). My daughter-in-law and I explained that if Mom, Dad, Grandma or Grandpa says we can go with someone, it’s OK.

And a follow-up on the elbow. While I tried to convince myself that the lack of pain meant it would be fine in the morning (maybe just dislocated?), unfortunately that was not the case.

It was broken, with surgery a few days later. As I work through a months-long recovery, my elbow in a sling, it takes me back to the kindnesses that evening.

Philoxenia is the Greek word literally meaning a “friend to the stranger,” and that’s what we experienced.

Thank you, Jeff and Dee. You are examples of kindness, and you represent the true definition of being a neighbor to anyone in need.

This story was written by Cathy Lussiana, a community contributor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Lussiana is a retired human resources professional who now enjoys traveling, spending time with her grandchildren, biking and writing.

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