When you have good health, you take so many things for granted. Last week I aggravated the arthritis that I have been told is showing up in my thumb, affecting my ability to grip or squeeze. I can feel it sometimes, but never like this when I spent a morning assembling a park bench and used my twisting and squeezing actions a little too much. I was fine until bedtime when pain started shooting through my thumb down to my wrist. In the morning, I was told to use a prescription gel and get a thumb splint and it should get better. With the help of those things and Advil for the inflammation, it has improved. Thankfully.

IMG_7644The impact of this inconvenience was the recognition of how much I use my left hand (I’m right handed) for everything, including getting dressed, picking up things, everything. I’m a two-handed person. While I struggled through the constant shooting pain the first day, all I could think of was the people I know who live with this all the time. A dear friend had a stroke years ago which left her with one weak side. I’ve helped her with the minor things we take for granted, such as pulling up your pants or putting on a shirt, especially one with buttons, putting in earrings, doing your hair. Even fastening the seatbelt in the car was difficult for me. My two days of inconvenience was nothing really.

My mind wondered on to a young woman I know who has only had one arm since birth and how she can diaper a baby or put her hair in a ponytail without thinking. She’s adapted. The only other injury I’ve ever had was breaking a chip off my elbow and having my arm in a sling. They probably treat that differently now, because I still notice that my arm won’t straighten all the way from keeping it immobile for so long. Nothing like having your arm blown off in battle or losing it in a car wreck. Nothing.

My biggest problem with my minor injury was the pain at first, which made me think of the people who live with severe pain all the time. I have friends with severe back pain, migraines, debilitating pain that stops them in their tracks. My son worked while suffering pain in his jaw from radiation treatment for cancer. I still don’t know how he managed.

I could go on, but my main takeaway was to remember that I need to put myself in others’ shoes every once in awhile, walk their path just a little bit so I don’t turn away from their genuine needs. Even though we adapt as best we can to the changes life throws us, it’s still nice to have someone offer a helping hand, let them lean on us for a bit. At the very least, we applaud them again and again for their perseverance and strength.

Caretakers should try not using a limb or not seeing so well or some exercise that puts them in the other’s shoes. We can’t imagine the pain, but we can be more compassionate. I’m looking on my weekend of inconvenience as a sampling of what others live with and a reminder to never take what I have for granted. I’m watching with kinder eyes this week. I hope I never forget.