The stranger.

Something happened to me this week. Something which in the grand scheme of the universe may not seem huge to many, but to me was both heart warming and poignant.

Walking the twins home from school, a lady with three children was about 100 metres in front of me. She turned and checked we were ok once, obviously having heard Zach cry out as he tripped onto the gravel path. Cerebral Palsy and being tired after a long week at school don’t mix overly well. That was nice of her to do that, I remember thinking. (He was fine by the way, aside from some grazed knees which have only just healed from the last tumble. His cerebral palsy likes to play havoc with his centre of gravity).

We continued our walk home, which includes stopping at a little wooden fence, with a sharp turn right into our road. The lady and her children, two walking and one in a pram, were stopped at that fence as we approached. It was then that this thing happened – when I no longer saw her as a lady in the street going about her walk home just like me, but a lady who reached out to me and touched my heart in a way I shall never forget.

As I approached, pushing Reuben in his wheelchair and clasping Zach’s hand to avoid him going awol, she turned round to me. She reached into her bag, which had previously been nestled onto her pram, and handed me a Chocolate gift. Not at any other time in my life (not even the trip to Cadbury world in Birmingham when I discovered Twirl bites) has chocolate played in such a significant moment for me.

On handing this unexpected gift to me out the blue, this stranger looked me in the eye, squeezed my hand and said ‘enjoy something nice just for you. I read your blog’.

Bolt of lightning from the true beauty of human nature right there. That chocolate gift stood for kindness, generosity, understanding and empathy. It could have been chocolate or the Crown Jewels – it didn’t matter (and we all know how much I’m partial to a sparkle or two). It stood as an altruistic gesture which took me by surprise, but one where it was completely clear how this total stranger understood the complexities of my life. One stranger to another reaching out a hand and gift of love ‘just because’ and needing nothing in return. A random act of kindness.

I don’t know if I will ever see that lady again. I thanked her profusely but maybe if she ever chooses to read my ramblings again on my blog she will see this one, and really get to know how much she touched my heart. A single gesture spoke a million words. So to ‘Chocolate Lady with no name’….thank you, you’re a beautiful person.

I am extremely lucky. I consider myself very very fortunate to be surrounded by people who have made this ‘journey’ that we find ourselves on easier. I am lucky that I get direct insight into the fabulous parts of humanity, when people want to support or help us. The list has been endless of these human treasures and so many times my mind has been blown by the way people put themselves out or go the extra mile to make a difference.

A brilliant example of that is obviously DIYSOS, when people I have never met gave up their own time and money to change my family’s life. I live everyday in the result of people’s generosity and hard work. I have a constant fantastic reminder of this as I put on Reuben’s fibre optic twinkly lights as he sleeps, or put Zach to bed in his incredible room, or Harry plays in his Hideout. I don’t need to watch the show on repeat for me to know the care and love that went into it all, I feel it within my 4 walls each day.

This extends further to so many people who have helped in my fundraising for the twins. The NHS is a truly wonderful thing, I worked for it for a long time before we needed it after the twins arrival, yet it doesn’t have a bottomless pit of money. Fundraising is our way of life now. Luckily lots of people have wanted to get aboard this train and we have been able to secure therapy sessions Reuben otherwise wouldn’t have had. We’ve bought them pieces of equipment that have made their lives easier. When they outgrew them we handed them onto other children who needed them, making a difference to them too.

I’ve often sat and wondered what it is about the twins that people want to help them. Maybe it’s that realisation that any of those people could be in our shoes right now. What happened to us could have happened to anyone and that whole ‘but by the grace of God’ thing is hugely haunting. The dice just rolled in a different direction for us. I find it incredibly humbling that people go to such efforts for my babies. I’m don’t know why they do. Maybe it’s just cos the twins are so blimmin cute (but guess I’m biased). Maybe it’s just because these people are truly kind individuals. Maybe they want to make a difference and see the twins benefit from whatever they can do to help. I don’t know. I do know however that I couldn’t do what I do, without all these people. I never expect anything of anyone. I do know my life would be a million times harder without them.

Only this week I had a cuppa with a lovely man who is going to run the London marathon for the twins in April. (From someone who only runs if there’s a sale on in a shoe shop, I’m in awe). I know a group of people who want to climb three mountains for them in June. Tomorrow a local hair salon will run a fundraising event using their skills and talents making people beautiful in exchange for donations. A truly wonderful lady in a fortnight will get muddy and electrocuted (what the heck) in a running event. Electrocuted in mud. Let’s just ponder on that for a moment….

This is the craziness, beauty and power of people. When I think I could not be any more surprised, I have a particular friend who has the most quirky beautiful mind that works ten steps ahead of her, always thinking of the next hair brain but frankly brilliant event and recruiting volunteers who want to have some fun with us along the way. She knows who she is….. and they firmly broke the mould when they made her. This is complemented by my intelligent, caring and loyal reliable wing woman who makes stuff happen. She’s incredible. Sacrificing so much time for us as she leads a busy and successful job and has a family. Where would I be without these two. What a duo.
But where would I be without everyone who has ever helped us – all the other walks, runs, combat sessions, cycles, cake sales and Balls that have made my children’s lives better. For that I owe many thank yous.

Of course, whilst most people show their beautiful colours, I have met and known some who haven’t been as pleasant. I guess this is the flip side to human nature. The woman who called Reuben a ‘mong’ in the supermarket, the stares and the whispers when we’re out, the mother nearby who felt there were no need for disabled children in a mainstream school, the person who didn’t see the point in raising extra money for a ‘retard’. (If there’s ever a word that can make my blood boil it’s that one). The person who screamed at me in the car park that disabled kids should not get such privileges like a Blue Badge. (Not being funny love, I don’t see it as a privilege and I certainly don’t think it’s great my kids are disabled just so I get to park ten feet nearer to the shop door).
To the person who looked at me and said my boys would be a burden on me for the rest of my life….

In my opinion all of those things are wrong. Certainly, the twins are not a burden. They are a huge gift. So many people are never lucky enough to be graced with children of their own – I got two at once. If that’s not lucky then what is? Yes it’s hard at times, (most days), but these boys contribute to my life in the most positive of ways. They have taught me so much about determination, belief, perseverance and love. They are a inspiration, not a burden, and I thank my lucky stars they came into my life.
There are some people that were once part of my life, but for whatever reason to do with the twins have chosen not to be now. In my opinion, they are missing out on something wonderful. There are friends who I thought would stand by my side and walk this journey with me, but they have chosen not to. I have no idea why, yet I can not dwell on the disappointment of others’ choices and behaviour. I will move forward with the most fabulous friends that I have, of which I’m blessed with the best.

For every negative person and detrimental, often offensive, opinion I’ve been fortunate enough to meet another 100 people whose heart and approach is kind. People who accept the twins for being Zach and Reuben and nothing more. I’m going to come into contact with negative ones for the rest of my life no doubt so I now just rise above it and be the better person.

Better people are the ones I am lucky to have in my life. I know I’ll meet even more as the twins grow. In a society which can often be soul destroying and frightening, when you turn on the news to another terrorist attack or tragedy, it’s so energising and wonderful to know that in the main, people are good. I live everyday where I’m lucky my children are on the receiving end of goodness, of kindness and of love. From friends, from neighbours, from family and from community. But also from complete strangers. ‘Friends who you haven’t met yet’ but also those who will reach out to you, when you least expect it and who may only come into your life for a fleeting moment but make an impact for a very long time.

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