The Kindness of Strangers

It’s been almost seven weeks since I managed a fall that pretty much put me out of commission while leaving me (obviously) to live another day, albeit weighed down by a huge, black, velcro-strapped boot on my broken ankle.

What was meant to be a week-long trip to Quebec City—with a side-trip to Montreal to attend my grandson’s graduation—turned into a month-long stay. Gradually, after my fall, I was able to make my way around my daughter’s home, thanks to a unique way of traveling up and down the stairs which involved three people, myself included, and was not easy, I assure you. I even made it to the graduation where I was one of seven guests in wheelchairs making their way into the large white tent where ceremony took place.

On the road again (the author heading to Montreal for a graduation), May 2023.

In fact, I soon graduated myself—from wheelchair to walker. Getting in and out of the car was easily managed, as were a couple of trips to a doctor who checked the ankle and a young student nurse who removed the one stitch that resulted from my fall.

But our travels weren’t all for medical reasons: two drives through the farming area outside Quebec city revealed beautiful, well-kept properties that I had not actually seen on earlier trips while a drive to the Isle D’Orleans brought me to a place I visit whenever I’m in Quebec City—it really is a  “must see” for most tourists.

What amazed me during my stay was that no matter how many doors had to be opened as we made our way around, we never opened any of them—from teenagers to older men and women, other people opened doors and held them, always with a smile or a “get well soon,” as I maneuvered my trusty walker in or out.

When the time came for the trip back to Cape Breton, I experienced more of the same friendly assistance in New Brunswick, whether at a Tims or any other stop along the way. Not surprisingly, one of my first trips when I was finally back home resulted in the very same kind and friendly offers of assistance, along with the (only in Cape Breton?) warning that there could be no running in the halls. I wish!


Being on the receiving end of so much voluntary kindness put me in mind of a recent incident in which I accidentally demanded it.

A group of shopping carts.

Heidi De Vries, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A while before my Quebec trip, I was heading into the grocery store with my usual gear—cane, car keys, bags and purse—when a gentleman came up behind me pushing an empty cart to the corral. “I’ll take that,” I said as he began to pass me. “Sure dear,” was his immediate response and he steered the cart toward me.

I thanked him and quickly placed my things inside. But rather than return to his car, he continued into the store and as I got closer to the entrance, I saw him collecting another cart from the lobby and I realized he hadn’t been returning his cart to the corral at all! I never did meet him in the store, where I would have apologized for my mistake. As they say in Woman’s World “Was my face red!”


One problem I faced upon my return was not being able to access my telephone messages, all 21 of them. My concern was that any friends who had heard of my fall and called to leave messages of encouragement would think I hadn’t had the manners to respond to them. It took a day or two to solve the problem, at which point I had a great laugh when I realized at least half the messages were from the lady who provides notices of the next garbage pickup!

Walker boot similar to mine AKA what the well-dressed woman is wearing in Quebec this summer.

Which is not to suggest my friends are uncaring, most hadn’t actually heard of my adventure and I have received many well wishes in the meantime. I also (just yesterday) received the message I was most anxious to receive—“You can give the boot to the boot!”

The fact, minus the boot, my life will now return to normal—which, at my advancing age, consists chiefly in being in control of my own coming and goings—has me considering what it must be like for those among us for whom life in, say, a wheelchair, is permanent; those whose situations will never change and who must face each day dependent on others for assistance. Helping where you can—and doing it with a smile—sheds a little sunshine on all involved, I have discovered.

And on that note, to all those whose names I will never know (and all those whose names I know very well and in some cases chose), a huge and grateful “THANK YOU.”



Dolores Campbell, a lifelong resident of Sydney, is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Cape Breton Highlander, the Nova Scotian, Cape Breton Magazine, Catholic New Times and The Cape Breton Post.