This past week I had a 92 year old gentleman come into the physicians office where I work. I took his vitals and brought him to the exam room. He told me he had been having abdominal pain for 2 days and he could not take it anymore. “I think I may have gotten some bad food,” he said. He was hunched over, walked with a cane and was very thin. An otherwise healthy man all his life, he took no prescription drugs at all, which surprised me since it seems everyone is on a half dozen med's these days.
As I went to leave the room he said, “I felt so bad last night I just wanted to commit suicide.”
That sentence made me stop in my tracks, turn around and sit down. I knew I had to talk with him a bit. I smiled and said, “Well, I will tell ya, I have had food poisoning and I wanted to kill myself too.” We sat and chatted for a few minutes and before I left he had a light in his eye and smile. Just a few minutes of my time made all the difference to this lonely widower. Just a few minutes to listen to him talk, and give him my undivided attention not only made him feel better but made me feel good too.
That incident reminded me of a story I heard once about two seriously ill men sharing a hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each day to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room's only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back. The two men talked about their family, their homes, jobs and life. Every day when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would describe to his room mate all the things he could see out the window. The man in the other bed would live for those one hour periods where his world would be enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside.
The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans glided across the water, children sailed their model boats, couples walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color. The man by the window described all this in exquisite detail. The man who had to lie on his back could see it in his mind. Days and weeks passed and one morning the man by the window peacefully died in his sleep. The other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and she made him comfortable and left him alone. Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look out the window. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed. It faced a blank wall.
The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased room mate to describe such wonderful things. The nurse responded, “Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you.”
Despite our own situations, there is tremendous happiness in making others happy. May we each strive daily to make a difference in the life of one person. A smile, a hello, a card, a phone call, or just take a few minutes to listen.
She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
Proverbs 31: 20
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