29 November, 2011

It's the people

Australians are generally very kind and helpful. I was very much reminded of this truth over the last few days and weeks. This November has been a particularly bad month for me although it is a memorable one to be sure. I mis-carried a baby, had surgery, and was in a car accident within a three week period. There were several other smaller problems but these definitely top the list. What has helped me and my family through these trials (and really isn't that what they really are?) are the amazing Australians I have encountered. Here are some examples of the Aussie hospitality I have experienced.

When I was recovering from surgery, my dear friend brought meals and even took my kids for the day. People have sent flowers and offered help. Medical personnel were very kind. I even had a doctor call me personally just to check in on me. That is unheard of in the US! Friends have called to chat, or visit, or text their support. Another friend rescued me from the auto shop today and loaned me her car. All of these kindnesses I would expect (with the exception of the doctor's concern) but it the kindness of strangers that I really want to highlight.

Warning this next paragraph is very long and rambling. It is a spaghetti story that will make sense in the end, I promise.

Today, while taking Madeline to school, a woman pulled out in front of me at an intersection and I struck her car with my van. No one was hurt thankfully. She was apologetic. We exchanged information and were on our way. Note: You don't need to involve police here in a motor vehicle accident. You are required to file a report online. VERY EFFICENT!! We limped to Madeline's school. I got out of the van to see if I could bend whatever it was that was rubbing on the tire out of the way so I could drive home. Out of no where, a staff member from the school asked if she could help me. Susan called maintenance and I was wisked away to have a cup of tea in her office while the van was gafted (duct taped) together. We ended up having a wonderful conversation once my hands stopped shaking. Turns out her sister lives in Colorado but is returning to Perth this Friday to live. We plan to get her niece and Madeline together. I was later sent on my way with a caution to drive carefully. All I could say was thank you. Susan and the maintenance man both said, "It was our pleasure to help you, that's what Mater Dei is all about." Fast forward about 3 hours to when I limp the car to the auto shop. Note: If you do auto body work in Australia you are known as a 'paneller'. (Spell check doesn't like that one). I didn't have an appointment but they managed to squeeze me in for an appraisal. I'm was told by a very kind man that I can't legally drive my car the way it was and that it will take an act of God for it to be repaired by Christmas. I'm feeling sick to my stomach with the news, wondering how am I going to pay for a rental car for that long when a lady from the office comes out with an offer of a 'cuppa' and a next door rental place. I manage to arrange for a friend to come and rescue me and give me a ride home. (Oh, and pick up Madeline from school 20 minutes late.) Then begins my attempt at renting a car in Australia. Not easy. No worries. Kay offered to lend me her car until tomorrow afternoon thereby giving us some time to figure some things out and go to the bank (they close up tight at 4 or 4:30). Immediate problem solved. Everybody can get to where they need to go in the morning.

Yesterday, I called a funeral center to make some arrangements for our baby. The lady could have just signed me up for the most expensive services but she didn't. She went out of her way to help us. She called the hospital and made an appointment for me to speak with the chaplain. Turns out the hospital staff should have mentioned these resources to me but didn't. Anyway, it sounds like some of the expenses might be picked up by the hospital but I don't know for sure. I didn't have time today to call the chaplain, I was too busy having a car accident.

My whole point is, these people didn't have to do what they did. The funeral lady could have just done her job and charged me the fees, but she didn't. The doctor could have waited until my next appointment, but he didn't. The auto panelers could have put me off until tomorrow, but they didn't. Susan, could have just left me to rip the wheel housing off of my car by myself, but she didn't. These people helped me when I really needed it and it made a huge difference to me. We all can help one another. We are called to do so, but how often do we 'not bother'? In the U.S. I have been helped by strangers many times. I've been known to ask a stranger for directions, or to jump my car. The difference is that in the U.S. people will certainly help you when asked. In Australia though, I wasn't asking. Help was offered me before I even really knew what I needed. Isn't that the definition of hospitality, anticipating someone's need?

Good on you Aussies!!! You made my day and I love you for it.