While I was standing in a queue in a packed post office or rather I was waiting for my number to be announced, I was watching the people around me. An old lady went to a cubicle unbidden, without a number and showed her postal note of an item impatiently. I felt so sorry for her as many times it takes me, who is half her age, a long time to figure out which button to press to get a number for the right type of business I want to deal with without making others wait, who are impatient because they get there in a hurry. How could an 80-90 year-old person make head or tail of this world?
The assistant tried to explain it to her that her letter, which came from the municipality, is still with the mail deliverer and can be picked up only the following day. It was obvious that she couldn’t understand it. She was nervous to get to know why she gets a letter from the municipality and what’s inside as she was in the office personally. The assistant couldn’t answer these questions, so the old lady left in a frustrated state of mind.
After I had finished my business there, I caught up with her on the street. She was very agitated, her body language let it out from far away; she was loudly fliting, flailing her walking stick as she was scuffling in the crowd. She tried to process her helplessness in her social seclusion, yet it made others get even further away from her. My heart sank. An old defenseless lady in this hurrying, ever changing world, alone, emotions and questions whirled in my head; does she have children, why don’t they help her?
I stopped her and told her that I had seen her in the post office and I can explain why she couldn’t get her letter. I could imagine the outcome of this event; I could envisage her wrinkled face, full of grace, how she would be relieved, she might get a bit emotional that there are still nice people in this brutal world, and of course I would be the person to give back her, who is defenseless, her faith in humanity. Even I started to feel a bit emotional about it, but it is not how it happened!
With my helping hand I opened an unexpected release valve in her; she started to talk more, dumping her bad feelings on me. Her flailing and cussing became more pronounced and now the witless crowd tried to move around the two of us. My fuzzy feelings were gone. How come that she does that to ME, who just wanted to help her and in the end it seemed that it was me who offended the lady who was very open about expressing her bad feelings!? Do I deserve this???
Out of a professional call, I set aside my own feelings and started to pay more attention to her. She is mad – yes, I can understand that! At the mail deliverer, who –according to her – didn’t press her bell, at the municipality, who sent a letter although she had visited them. I could decide whether to be a fellow human being or just leave her stating „No one should talk to me like this as I didn’t do anything wrong!” I had a right to choose either of these, I was free to decide!
The fellow human being side won and I went head in into the situation! As a woman I know that if something is weighing you down you need to put it into words to get a relief. I let her talk. While I was listening to her attentively, and the anger changed its face and it became clear to me that there is a lot of FEAR in this emotional deluge dumped on me. I am not afraid of that as I know how to handle it by giving safety, reinsurance what I had wanted to do at the beginning so I’m at the right place, things are looking better!
I waited patiently, until her gestures became less pronounced then I started to talk.
„I can understand that you are so rattled. I cannot tell you what is in the letter. Maybe nothing new, they might have just written down what you had discussed with them at your visit. Just calm down, no need to panic! Be at home same time next week and watch out for the bell as the mail deliverer will try to redeliver the letter and at that time you can get it!”
She had calmed down. As a child, she repeated what I had told her then I said goodbye. I didn’t get what I’d expected but my faith in humanity had got strengthened.
It is good to be a fellow human being even at this price. But sometimes you need to keep the right distance!
Harsányiné Városi Ildikó