A Friend In Need

By all accounts Monday, February 6th was shaping up to be a pretty good day. The temperature had warmed a bit over the weekend and most of the snow and ice had melted. By then, I was several months into a new routine, regularly commuting by train to Chicago for an interim university job.

On my brisk walk to catch an early evening train back to the suburbs, my mind was reflecting on a productive meeting. The remaining icy patches of sidewalk were nearly impossible to see in the darkness of 5pm. That is, until I stepped on a slick patch and started to fall backwards. I was able to right myself enough not to hit my head, but instead fell sideways and ‘caught’ my fall with my left hand.

I knew it was broken from the immediate pain and swelling.  I managed to extract my phone and saw an Uber would take longer than waiting for the next train, so I walked the remaining blocks to the station cradling my broken wrist. Once there I requested an ice pack from the conductor, then found an empty row on the train where my tears from the pain might go unnoticed.  Knowing I couldn’t drive, I had to figure out how to get to the ER as soon as I arrived in Glenview.

I let my partner Mark know what happened, and he immediately left work, but we both knew it would take at least 45 minutes from his west suburban office to Glenview. I knew exactly who to call next, Lumi.  She has been featured in other posts, like the one I wrote about last spring’s road trip to Kentucky. We’ve shared many good times together, but it’s the shared vulnerabilities that cemented our friendship.

Lumi and I met more than a decade ago at a Sunday morning drop-off in the baby-toddler room at Glenview Community Church. We both had three-year-olds and I had noticed her before but was yet to strike up a conversation. I was still new to Glenview and keenly aware of how few parents I knew in town, so I ached for more connection. Before long Lumi and I found ourselves in the same book discussion group during Lent and together launched a new chapter of the church women’s group targeting moms with younger kids.

We’ve watched each other’s children grow and shared life stories and experiences. I learned how Lumi came to the US from Romania around the time I moved from DC to Kentucky. It put my experience of struggling to fit in to my new state into perspective; here was another 12-year-old girl navigating a new country and language, not to mention economic hardships. Lumi’s family eventually settled in Glenview where she met her husband, Jason. They returned to Glenview after college and after several years of marriage they adopted their daughter.

Giving and receiving kindness are easy ways to feel good and to help others feel good too. People, organizations, and societies thrive when they are grounded in a culture of kindness.

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD

I’ve received Lumi’s stories of life as an immigrant and an adoptive parent, and Lumi has been there for me many times over the years, offering unwavering support and kindness during my divorce and eventual move to a new home. Her daughter has tended to my cats when I’ve travelled and we’ve mourned losses of beloved family members and pets together, in addition to celebrating happy moments.

Once Lumi answered my call that February evening, she immediately took charge. She tracked my progress on the train to be on the platform when I arrived, then took me to an orthopaedic immediate care with evening hours and the expertise to evaluate my condition.  As a nurse practitioner, she had the confidence to push back on the medical team. But as my friend she had my trust. When I called her that evening, I wasn’t thinking about her medical expertise, just her friendship, and the knowledge that her tenacity and advocacy for her loved ones was exactly what I needed right at that moment.

More than three months have passed since my fall and surgery and while my scar is fading, my gratitude for what Lumi and others did for me has not. They brought me food, flowers and cards. I received texts and care packages from friends and family near and far. The night of my fall, Mark retrieved my car from the train station and stayed with me during my fitful first night of sleep. Lumi accompanied me to my visit with the surgeon a few days later and Mark was by my side before and after the surgery, accepting that his thoughtful Valentine’s Day plans were replaced by a far less romantic evening of helping me manage my post-surgery pain medication. 

There are many friendships that have Instagram-worthy moments, but it’s friendships that encompass moments of need that make us whole. Connection expert and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy shared in his book Together, how important it was for him to reach out to close friends during a time his daughter was hospitalized with an unknown illness. He wrote, “They were happy to be there. They needed to be there not only for us, but for themselves. They wanted to be needed. Everyone does.”

The words Dr. Murthy wrote came to mind in the period that followed my accident and surgery. Instead of worrying about being a burden to others, I was able to accept the care and compassion offered to me. These acts of kindness from others deepened our bonds, while creating a silver lining to an otherwise very challenging time in my life.

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