The People We Lean On

Ruth Dawkins essays

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Sometimes I lean on people in ways they don’t even know.

I have a great group of friends. Some of them live two streets away, while others live on a different continent. I have a wonderful family. A husband and a son, siblings and cousins, uncles and aunties and in-laws, all of whom make my world a good place to be. I have a happy, fulfilling life that is full of love and laughter.

But even so, there are people I lean on.

There always have been. Going right back to when I was a child, I can remember near strangers who had no idea how important they were to me: my Dad’s colleague, who would always wink and slip a coin into my hand to buy candy with; the member of airline staff who chatted to me for an hour between flights when I was travelling unaccompanied; the country singer at a small-town show who signed my cassette tape with a smile and a twinkle.

They were the people who, without being aware of it, provided a sense of structure and security. The people I knew would pick me up if I fell.

As a teenager I saw them everywhere: the woman in the corner store who would let me know when the latest edition of my favourite magazine was in; the teacher who encouraged me to look to a life beyond high school; the pen pal whose letter always seemed to arrive at just the right moment.  

Later, when I became a mother, I leaned like I had never leaned before. I leaned on the man who jumped off the bus and helped me fold my stroller up. I leaned on the waiter who walked my son around the restaurant so I could finish a meal. I leaned on the other new mother who texted at midnight just to say hello, knowing I would be up feeding.

I felt, perhaps for the first time, like there is no shame in leaning. It is something we all do.

My son is now six years old. When I spend time with him I realise that he is now starting to lean on people too: the shop owner who asks how school was, and passes a cocktail sausage over the counter; a friend’s mum, who notices his new trainers and says how good they look; the swimming teacher who teases him gently, but promises not to let go until he feels safe.

The one thing they have in common is kindness. They are the people who make the time to interact. They are the people who notice us, who make us feel seen, valuable, loved.

Maybe someone leans on you like that. Maybe that smile you give a woman, as you pass her on the walk to work, helps hold her together. Maybe you make that man’s bad days better just by saying hello. Maybe that kid doesn’t have many other people who notice when he’s grown an inch or had a haircut.

Leaning is a two-way thing.

So be kind. Always be kind.


About the Author

Ruth Dawkins

Ruth is a writer who has recently moved from the UK to Australia with her husband and five year old son. She blogs about parenting, politics and photography at .

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June 2015 – Kindness
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