Monday, March 03, 2008

smoke screen

I suppose there's a first time for everything but some things, like buying a packet of cigarettes, will never feature on my list of must-does before I die. Still, today I ended up buying my first pack of smokes. Well, they weren't really my packet, but I did buy them.

I can proudly... no, no... sheepishly profess to never having taken so much as a puff on a smoke. In fact I was one of those kids who yelled sanctimonious health advice ('every cigarette you smoke takes five minutes off your life') across the street at the youth who surreptitiously smoked behind the old cinema. Only last week I indulged in a patently artificial cough when the neighbour's cigarette smoke filled my face and seeped into my freshly washed clothes as we simultaneously hung out our washing. And I wouldn't be a true nurse if I didn't warn every patient of their body's inability to heal when flooded with toxic chemicals from a cigarette.

So purchasing the demon sticks has not even so much as danced across the outer reaches of my consciousness. (We'll forget for now that there was a time when, as a powerless, poor teenager, I could describe in detail the box of every brand and strength thanks to an unscrupulous employer)

Today everything changed. I joined the class of 'cigarette buyer'. Sigh.

It all started when I blithely phoned a fellow nurse to confirm a coffee date, only to be greeted by tears. She was unwell. Bleeding from places one does not normally bleed from. In pain. Scared.

Of course I would jump in the shower quickly and come over. If need be I would take her to the hospital. I would do whatever she needed. Anything.

"What? (Gulp) You want me to buy you a packet of cigarettes?! I've never bought a packet in my life! I... I... I wouldn't even know what sort to get."

Peter Jackson silver. (And yes, I remember the pack)

So I skulked into the shop, head down, forked out my money and (before I could blurt out that the cigarettes were most definitely not for me) ran to the car. On arrival at my friend's place she fell upon me with gratitude, confessing her guilt at the dirty habit as she sucked in the toxic fumes.

This is friendship, no? Not necessarily agreeing with another person's actions, but offering support regardless. (Incidentally, my friend did not need to go to hospital and, whether due to the cigarettes or my excellent company, she calmed considerably)

I seem to be coming up against this almost daily at present - loving and valuing a person at the same time as being unable to support their behaviour. A father caught up in abusing his wife and child, a bullying Christian, an unwell smoker. Each of them a friend, all demanding an appropriate, dignified response.

Suddenly purchasing a pack of smokes seems a minor infringement - there is more at stake in the world than the sullying of my pristine, smoke free past!

I only hope I can step as easily over and through the other difficulties.



At 4:57 am, March 04, 2008, Blogger Heather said...

You're a wise and compassionate friend.

I once bought some duty-free cigarettes for a friend while crossing the border on the way home - I've always regretted it. At least you have a good reason (compassion), while mine was just to save a few bucks.

At 8:12 am, March 04, 2008, Blogger Deanna said...

I worked at a convenience store and learned all about cigarettes. It was back when their cost soared in the U.S. to a dollar a pack. (!)

Growing up a preacher's kid, I had considered smokers immoral. At the convenience store I came to see smoking as simply a bad, addictive habit. Later on I had to try one puff of my friend's cigarette, just to experience it (she took a picture and threatened to send it to my parents!).

At 9:27 am, March 04, 2008, Blogger Cherie said...

Ah, the first time buying cigs for someone else. Red face, excuses, then the realization that ....who cares? Not such a big deal. Been there. For me it was buying them for my father-in-law. He was going to buy some anyway and I was going to the store. It showed him that I wasn't a prude, and it showed me that kindness takes many forms.

Good insights, Cecily, as usual.

At 12:53 pm, March 04, 2008, Blogger Robyn said...

Praying for you (for wisdom in the complicated situations, not for your "smoking") - you're a good friend :)

At 11:57 pm, March 04, 2008, Blogger Sandy's Notes said...

You are a good friend. I think that was a tough decision to make.


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