We have are often kind and good and wonderful.
We are often unfeeling, stupid and mean.
And those are often the same person.
I follow a young couple on Twitter. The man has a life threatening blood cancer and is in the middle of having all of his immune system killed by chemo so he can get a stem cell transplant. Its a dangerous and terrible process. But happily it works quite often.
Today, the young woman was so upset she went outside and started to cry. A woman she didn’t know came up and hugged her. A man she didn’t know shouted at her as he walked by on his cell phone “Cheer up, it might never happen.” and then kept talking on the cell phone.
The man’s response was callous and tone deaf to a say to a woman standing in front of a Cancer Clinic. The woman’s response was exactly what our heroine so desperately needed the silent reach of universal support.
The man’s response was not intentionally unkind. He saw a woman crying and responded. He didn’t need to. No doubt dozens of people walked by and averted their eyes. The problem is that most of us really don’t know what to do in these situations. I certainly don’t. I am not a hugger. The thought of hugging a stranger is NOT pleasant. And what our heroine found comforting would have been uncomfortable to me. But I also would have been deeply angry at that comment made by the man.
No one knows how someone else will respond to their well intentioned support. And many of us just shrink from having to provide any because it may be more destructive than not.