It was a cloudy weekday afternoon. With my grey stethoscope strung around my shoulders, I headed towards the cafeteria outside the hospital for a quick lunch. I met my friend over there and we had a nice chat over some economy rice, which sells really nice food for a cheap price.
Alas, when we were almost done with lunch, rain started coming down outside in heavy trickles. Being too used to the fact that Australian rain never last for long, I convinced my friend to wait it out. To our dismay, the rain only got heavier, pelting down torrents as we waited in vain. It seemed to only get worse with every passing minute.
Having waited for quite sometime, we decided that enough was enough and decided to run for it. I covered up my oxford handbook with a random piece of scrap paper, hoping to shield it from the unrelenting rain and we plunged into the heavy sheets of rain.
An unsheltered walk that would normally take perhaps 5 minutes or so resulted in us being drenched from head to toe. With wet hair plastered to our faces and rain splotched clothes, we did not look a presentable sight.
Trying to arrange our hair and wiping off water droplets, we stepped into the lifts heading towards our respective wards. The lift filled up with people and I laughed and remarked to my friend: "We certainly don't look a pretty sight, do we?"
What happened next surprised me.
A stranger, a middle aged lady holding a red umbrella held out a couple of tissues to us and said: " Hey, here you go, wipe yourselves dry." The first response from any asian person would be to decline politely, saying it was okay.
But she insisted. "Go on, take it. You should wipe yourselves dry or you will get sick easily." Touched by her act, we accepted her offer and thanked her. With the tissues, we were able to pat dry our faces and hair in a somewhat more efficient way.
This little act of kindness showed me that there was still kindness in this world, even among strangers. This happened in a country that had a reputation of its people being self-centred. This also proved to me that assumptions and stereotyping were just that, they do not encompass everyone under one big umbrella.
It also reminds me that when patients are gratefully generous with their thanks when I take my leave, I must be doing something right. Listening is the first step for any sort of healing to take place.