Editor's Notes

A little more than four years ago, I laid on a gurney in the vestibule of a hospital in Shanghai, China, having no idea what would happen next.

I’d only recently arrived with some other American journalists — after a very long flight — for a presentation I was supposed to help make the following day to students at Shanghai University.

I’d tripped and fallen leaving a restaurant. I would learn when I finally got home that I’d torn my right knee tendon and required surgery.

I’d been taken to this Shanghai emergency room by ambulance. An X-ray there determined I did not have a broken leg. For reasons I still don’t understand, that was the only test medical personnel there were willing to do. I tried to ask about an MRI, but got nowhere.

All I really knew in the moment was I couldn’t walk or bend my knee beyond a limited point and that few people around me spoke English. As such, I was very dependent on people I barely knew.

I was reminded of those events as I thought about writing this Thanksgiving column, because of how thankful I still am for what happened next.

A local Shanghai editor, who spoke fluent English and was part of our group, argued — very loudly — with the ambulance crew and convinced them to take me back to the hotel. That wasn’t their normal procedure and they apparently had no desire to make an exception.

Another member of our group came with me, got me settled in the hotel, and even went and got me some cans of cold soda from the vending machine to help with the pain, as the hotel seemingly had no ice available.

I got a ton of additional help from people who either knew me just a little or not at all the next several days. One went and bought me a cane and a brace. Another arranged for food to be delivered to my room. I ended up being able to make my presentation in a wheelchair.

A few days later, another colleague made sure I got back the airport for the excruciatingly long flight home. He stayed with me as much as possible, getting me through customs both in Shanghai and later in Detroit.

In Tennessee Williams’ 1947 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” the character Blanche DuBois famously says “I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

Fortunately, that had never been true for me. Sure, like everybody, I’d needed a little help now and then. But to be suddenly dependent on people who’d been strangers only moments earlier was an eye-opening — and heartwarming — experience.

As we celebrate this day of giving thanks, it’s important to remember it’s the people around us who matter the most.

Once home, my wife, Mary, as well as family members and friends all helped me get through the months after surgery. I received great care at SUN Orthopaedics, Evangelical Community Hospital and River Woods. Mary, as always, was amazing.

But I will always be deeply appreciative of the people I didn’t know and will likely never see again who stepped up and got me through the early difficulties.

Those memories encourage me — and hopefully may inspire you — to continually look for ways to pay past kindnesses forward.

One more thing. If you have someone in your life who has made or is making a difference, remember we are looking for nominations for our annual People Who Make a Difference series of stories that we publish during the holidays. Please send them in an email to news@dailyitem.com.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Email comments to dlyons@dailyitem.com


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