Monday, March 24, 2008

"Are you a good person?"

I was caught off guard by that question. Maybe it was because seems like a simple question that I might be able to answer without even thinking about it. Or maybe it caught me off guard because I had my hands closed around the neck of the woman who asked it. Or maybe because it's a question fraught with meaning, even in the event of a yes or no answer.

Lest you think I'm a dangerous psychopath, I should mention that the reason I had my hands around the young lady's neck was because I was giving her a massage. She often has horrible pain, and my clumsy and inept ministrations provide at least a few hours of relief, allowing her to be able to sleep or focus on things other than pain. While she was face down and I was working on her neck and shoulders, she asked me that question "you're a good person, right?" It was in the context of discussion of someone who is decidedly NOT a good person, so it wasn't as though the topic was out of left field. Still, the question really caught me by surprise.

I consider myself a good person. I go about my life with an eye towards doing things easy for myself and also devote a large amount of time to making sure that it goes well for everyone else. At least as far as I can influence events. I help people move because I'm certain I'll need help some day. I don't call attention to people's faults, because I don't care for people doing it to me.

After she asked this question, I was consumed with trying to decided if there was any possible situation where someone might say "yes, I'm a bad person". Surely even bad people are going to say that they're good, and that they're completely trustworthy.

I don't think my friend was asking because she lacked the information, though. She was asking as a reassurance to herself, what with the aforementioned hand-throat situation. After all, there's a part of the modern brain that gets cautious when a man is sitting over a prone woman he outweighs by 120 pounds. She occupies an extremely vulnerable position.

I'm certainly conscious of the vulnerability, and consequently, the trust she's placing in me. It's the reason I make every effort to let her know she's the one who has the power. I continually look to her to direct me where to move next (especially since I can't feel where it hurts). When I start smooshing her around, I'm constantly on the lookout for even the briefest hint of discomfort. If she flinches, I practically fall over myself to stop applying pressure.

Sure, part of my reflex is because I don't have much of a grasp of therapeutic massage or human anatomy, so I'm deathly afraid of putting a thumb into her liver. But it's much more important that even though she's face down on a pad and being pressed there by a strong guy exerting a lot of muscle power, she needs to feel like she's at least partially in control of the situation. I don't mean in the sense that she can order me to eat a bar of soap at will, just that she's far from powerless.

The idea being that when she asks, "are you a good person?", the answer is already self-apparent from the moment I step in the door, and reinforced by every action I take.

After all, there's plenty of time to disappoint her with my laziness and lack of work ethic after I get to know her better!

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