When our paths crossed, you could say it was a meeting of four old dogs. He and his canine companions seemed cordial enough. He felt it necessary to inform me that he was using a cane because he just had back surgery. He wanted to know why I was using a walker. I simply said that I had a brain tumor a number of years ago. His only response was “NICE”. It was obviously one of those unfortunate inappropriate canned responses that we use far too often. Somewhat surprised, I quickly shot back with “no it was not”. He wasn’t slowed at all as he continued complaining how uncomfortable he was and how tough it was for him to get down the stairs. He was looking forward to returning to full health in the next couple of months. I then felt obligated to inform him that after more than four years, I am still unable to walk down stairs.* I wished him a good day and we each went our separate ways.
When the moment of enlightenment hits him, I’m sure he will want to beat himself with his cane. I don’t know anyone in their right mind who would describe a brain tumor as “nice”. I actually felt sorry for him. I couldn’t help but think of the countless times I have recklessly, to my horror, opened my mouth only to expel some thoughtless anecdote.
Someone once said, listening is not formulating a response, listening is a step towards understanding. My morning acquaintance wasn’t listening. He was in complaint mode. I know it too well. I have found it helps to focus on the blessings you have, and not what you lost or no longer have. We were upright. We were able to walk. We were able to live long enough to be called old. He could walk down stairs. He had companions to walk with. There was a nice safe walking path. The weather was decent. We both had safe, air conditioned homes to return to. Neither of us was malnourished. We both had decent clothes and medical devices to help us get around. Near as I could tell, aside from his temporary back ailment, he was relatively healthy. We both had access to good medical. He had a good prognosis in a relatively short period of time. We both had the tools necessary to communicate. No one was firing mortar rounds at us. No one has tried to round us up on our walk and throw us into a labor camp yet. Currently, we are both free to worship our God as we see fit.
As I reflect back on this encounter I regret that I let myself be offended by something he said, something I myself am good at, and I didn’t reach out at that moment and offer to pray for him or graciously remind him of all we have to be grateful for. Forgive me Lord.
“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”
*Update - It's not pretty but after nearly five years, thanks to a lot of therapy, prayers and persistence, I have finally learned how to get up and down those stairs.