I had to travel to another part of the country last week. The outing was unplanned, but I’m never one to turn down a road trip if the opportunity arises. I packed my car with my medications, and accompanied by pleas from my husband to drive safely, I set out.
It was a good time for a break. I’ve been experiencing increasing episodes of joint pain and feeling generally unwell, but had been unsure of the reason. I did suspect that there may be an emotional cause.
Lately, I’ve become aware of being constantly bombarded with images on the news. World leaders intent on stirring up suspicion of “others” and increasing division among groups of people. Intolerance and mockery of those who are “different.” Cultures are clashing, bigotry is increasing, and minority groups are being targeted.
I suspect the reason this division and conflict is affecting me at a level deep enough to cause increased physical symptoms is because as a chronically unwell person, I am part of a minority group.
I have “special needs”: I shuffle slowly in front of others at the supermarket, I require disabled parking, and if I don’t wear makeup to cover up the telangiectasia on my face, it’s easy for those I meet to mistakenly believe that I have a contagious disease.
If the majority group — the healthy ones — do not choose to be kind and accepting of me then I could be shunned, deemed as an intolerable annoyance, and left to fend for myself in an unwelcoming world.
I was reflecting on this as I drove. It seemed that unkindness was all around me, from the impatient driver who cut in front of my car, to the preoccupied cafe owner who refused to allow me to use the facilities unless I purchased something.
Angry and indignant thoughts toward these unkind “others” had me categorizing them in my mind as I drove. I began creating my own divisions: I was one of the “good people,” and they were allocated to the “bad people” group. My mood was lowering rather than lifting, and I could feel my joints beginning to ache.
It seems that the unkindness I have been focusing on has a secret weapon. It is so loud, arrogant, and offensive that it overshadows everything else. It led me to overlook all of the kindness that also exists in the world. I realized I had bought into the unkindness and division that was making me angry.
Hoping to turn my thoughts to more upbeat ones, I switched my driving playlist to shuffle, and the first song up was “Welcome Home,” sung by musician and fellow Kiwi, Dave Dobbyn.
As I listened to the words, I had an epiphany.
“Welcome Home” is an iconic song here in New Zealand; it has become like a national anthem that embraces generosity and acceptance of those who move here for a fresh start. The song speaks of inclusion and offering a hand of friendship.
It was a poignant reminder for me that kindness is all around, but I must focus on it if I want to see it.
I wrote a column last year about the importance of being kind. This advice is crucial, especially in these difficult times. However, I’ve realized something else about kindness.
My task as a scleroderma warrior is to focus on the compassion, goodness, and generosity in this world, and not on the hatred. Allowing others’ intolerance and bitterness to take over my life makes me a part of the destruction and causes me to become physically unwell.
Searching for love in this world heals my pain and makes me a kinder person toward others who need love, inclusion, and healing, too. Kindness is out there — and I intend to work hard to turn my attention toward it, for my joints at least, and mostly for all of us in these challenging times.
Note: Scleroderma News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Scleroderma News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to scleroderma.