Rheumatoid Arthritis and the neighbour and raising awareness one person at a time


garbage-binsA few months ago, when I had been living in my new house for about six months, my neighbour started filling my empty bins with building rubble.  He’s a painter and plasterer…pretty obvious who was doing it.  Then there was the fact that my daughter saw him do it, and he asked her to keep quiet about it. Bit of a give away…

It was his way of protesting that sometimes I left my bin down at the street for days at a time.  The rubbish bins are emptied on a Monday morning.  Sometimes my bin was still there on Tuesday evening.  Wednesday morning it would have rubble in it.

This would happen because I was having a flare of such severity that pulling the bin up the fairly steep driveway was too much for me to manage.  In fact, I have flares of such severity that the garbage bin sitting on the street doesn’t even make my radar of things to be concerned about.

It sure bothered him though.

The day my daughter saw him putting broken tile in the bin (again) she called me to come home right away, to catch him at it. I was having a good day.  I arrived just as he had finished removing the tiles and throwing them into his trailer. Which also sits on the nature strip regularly. This doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

I asked him about the tiles. He said he had removed them. I said I didn’t mind him putting rubbish in my bin BEFORE the garbage truck arrived, if there was room.  And before he could say anything else I apologised for leaving my bin on the street sometimes, and explained that I have Rheumatoid Arthritis, and some days I can’t walk very well.

He didn’t respond.  It’s hard to argue with someone who is apologising.  I’m not good at confrontation.

That was the last time I had rubble in my bin.  I actually forgot all about it. Normal life goes on.  The kids next door often throw their balls into my yard. I have a big dog, so I try to get the balls back into their yard before the dog destroys them. They are nice kids. Similar ages to mine.

I heard them yelling over the fence one day because their hockey ball had come over the fence and the dog had it in her mouth.  I was having a very bad flare day, but I got up out of bed, and got the ball.  I threw it back.

It was a slow, painful walk.  My backyard is also steep.  But they are nice kids.  And I try to treat people they way I would like to be treated.

My neighbour, their father, came out of the house as I was hobbling away from the fence.  He watched my make my way to the stairs.  He called out to me.  I smiled. He asked what was wrong.  I told him rheumatoid arthritis, a very bad flare.  He said he could see ‘something was not right’ and asked if he could help.  I said, no, but thanks for the offer.  He said not to worry about the hockey balls.  I told him I didn’t mind a bit if he or the kids wanted to jump the fence or go through the gate to retrieve them.  They are welcome to come into my yard, and my dog won’t mind either.

He said thankyou.  He asked me some more about my rheumatoid arthritis.  I tried to explain a little…pain, flares, bad days, better days, no cure but treatments that help many people, to varying degrees.

He listened.  And he said it sounds terrible. And he said it looks very painful.  And he asked me if swimming helped, because he has a pool, and if I thought it would give me some relief, I was welcome to swim or float in their pool.  Anytime.

I was holding back tears at this point…from the pain, from the fatigue, from the side effects of the oxycodone…but mostly from the unexpected kindness.

And yesterday my bin was taken up from the street and left at my gate.


  1. Wonderful, it takes so little to restore our faith in our fellow humans. I tend to think off myself as a pain in the ass to those around me, so I think everyone thinks I’m a pain in the ass. However my experience has been the opposite. I think our own guilt about our RA can at times make us predudice against those who are not disabled, which is a sad state of affairs. I am so glad your neighbours are watching out for you, when you are on your own with kids and living with RA every tiny drop of kindness helps. I hope you and your kids have a great Xmas. Xxxxx

  2. I know exactly what you mean, tears welling up at the kindness of strangers. Funny how all at once, the emotion comes at the smallest gesture of understanding. With arthritis, understanding is the best gift anyone can give us for Christmas. Wishing you peace in you and your joints this Xmas and a mobile 2014!

  3. What a lovely post and it made me cry. It’s so wonderful to hear of such compassion and willingness to understand another’s situation. Small acts of kindness like this can make such a massive difference to a life.
    I wish you and your family a wonderful Christmas & I hope it’s relatively pain free xxx

    • Tears are so close to the surface sometimes. I can hardly speak anymore about things that move me. I get all choked up.
      It’s wonderful that your neighbour finally gets it and all because you were being nice to his kids. Glad your dog is friendly, and I hope he pulls your bins up the hill a lot more


  4. I’ve read this post a couple of time when I’ve stumbled on it and both times it left me with a good feeling. Thanks for sharing, both time I’ve read this it’s reminded me that people may seem bad, when they’re really just being human and given the chance they turn out to be good. I’m glad you have such a compassionate guy living next door.

    • I must admit he restored my faith in humanity a bit. People can be quick to judge, but if you give them a chance, they can learn and change 🙂


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