There are certain events that occur in our lives that remain with us. They are the traumas, the surprises, the experiences that seem to have open-ended and sometimes divine significance. Creative thinker, Edward de Bono said, “A memory is what is left when something happens and does not completely unhappen”.
Years ago, at the age of seventeen, I spent a day at the university campus of a friend. While she attended her classes I roamed the beautiful grounds and toured the halls. At one point I called for the elevator on the second floor in one of the buildings. The door opened, I entered and selected the button to the first level. When the elevator didn’t move I noticed an out-of-order sign, so I detoured to the stairwell where I was met with providence.
Waiting at the top of the stairs was a man in his 20’s, sitting in a wheelchair. It was obvious that he could not use his arms or legs, and I could tell from the tube and oxygen attached to his chair that he also had a respiratory disorder. He greeted me and took a breath of life from the tube. In between puffs he told me that the elevator was often out of order and, as usual, he was waiting for friends to arrive to carry him and his chair down the stairs.
Since I was in no hurry I paused to speak with him. “After all”, I thought, “it’s the least I can do. The poor guy must live a wretched life. I would rather be dead than to live like that.”
If words had hands the man’s next statement would have slapped me! Not knowing my thoughts he said, “Every time the elevator breaks my friends carry me down the stairs in my chair”. Puffing on the tube he continued, “I’m always afraid that they’ll drop me, and I don’t want to die”.
I yelled internally, “What? He wants to live?!” His words seemed to circle the halls and return to me two or three more times. He spoke on and I listened wide-eyed, struggling to reconcile the spirit and optimism of what I heard with what I saw.
After a while we said good-bye and I found my way outdoors. Challenged by the man’s comments, I sat pensively beneath a tree for the remainder of the day …growing up.
How judgmental and narrow-minded I was to have made an assumption about another individual’s intrinsic value or ability to contribute. That man was a contributor all right; in one ten minute conversation he unassumingly educated and provoked lasting change to my character.
It has been more than thirty years since the visit. I cannot remember the name of the university, or the name of the friend who invited me to the campus, but I remember the amazing man who changed my life. For me, our visit was short, poignant, and fated. It truly was a meeting of divine significance that to this day, never unhappened.
Proverbs 16:9 NIV In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.
Orig Posted by Donna M Dougherty at 9/27/2008 11:36 AM