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When a Stranger Saw My Walking Stick and Showed Me Kindness


The first time someone gave me their seat on the train, I was traveling home from a rather disheartening appointment. The day had run late and so I was stuck traveling home during peak hour – not an ideal scenario when you are using any form of mobility aids, which in my case was a walking stick. I remember missing my first train, and having to sit on the platform floor, tucked against the wall so as to avoid tripping people over — because it was so hot and so crowded I thought I was going to pass out if I stood for the six minutes that were going to pass before the next train arrived.

I remember only just fitting into the carriage as the doors closed behind me, trying to remain cognizant of where I was placing my walking stick. On seeing how crowded the carriage was, a not so polite word softly escaped from my lips.

As the train moved on I felt hot and clammy, and became less aware of everyone around me. I knew a syncope episode was about to occur. I was anxious now, because the last time I had collapsed on a train no one had helped me. The other passengers had stepped to the side, and stared. Thankfully I recovered in time for my station but the memory of that gave me anxiety in the moment as I tried to fight against the incoming syncope episode. Perhaps my face had gone pale, because next thing I knew a woman stood up and made eye contact, offered a small smile and nodded towards her seat. I was so distracted and anxious that I essentially fell into it, mumbling “thank you” as I passed her.

Her kindness and willingness to give up her seat on a heavily crowded Sydney train for a young woman with a walking stick will always give me hope in humanity. This occurred during the start of my health journey, as I was still in the stage of learning my symptoms, finding triggers, testing treatments and searching for a diagnosis.

I am now accustomed to riding around on Bunnings or IKEA trolleys when it’s simply too hot or too crowded for my body to cope, but it allows me those extra few minutes to make sure I get what I need. I am accustomed to the judgmental looks, the passing comments always said just loud enough that you hear them. These days I have learned to allow those judgments to wash over me like water off a duck’s back.

If I could see those individuals who didn’t help me on the train again, or if I had the time and energy to explain to those who make passing comments, I would remind them that not all disabilities or illnesses are visible, and it doesn’t take much effort to treat other strangers with kindness.

Getty image by Digital Vision.