“And life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.” — Grandma Moses
There were once two men, both seriously ill, in the same room at a great hospital. Quite a small room, it had one window looking out at the world. One of the men, as part of his treatment, was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon (something to do with the draining of fluid from his lungs.) His head was next to the window. But the other man had to spend all the time flat on his back.
Every afternoon, when the man next to the window was propped up for his hour, he would pass the time by describing what he could see outside. The window apparently overlooked a park with a lake. There were ducks and swans in the lake, and children came to throw them bread and sail model boats. Young lovers walked hand in hand beneath the trees, and there were flowers and stretches of grass, games of softball. And at the back, behind the fringe of trees, was the city skyline.
The man on his back would listen to the other man describe all of this, enjoying every minute. He heard how a child nearly fell in the lake and how beautiful the girls were in their summer dresses. His friend’s descriptions made him feel he could almost see what was outside.
Then one fine afternoon, the thought struck him: Why should the man next to the window have all the pleasure of seeing what was going on? Why shouldn’t he get the chance? He felt ashamed, but the more he tried to not to think like that, the more he wanted a change. He would do anything!
One night as he stared at the ceiling, the other man suddenly woke up coughing and choking, his hands groping for the button that would bring the nurse running. But the man watched, without moving — even when the sound of breathing stopped. In the morning, the nurse found the other man dead, and quietly took his body away.
As soon as it seemed decent, the man asked if he could be switched to the bed next to the window. So they moved him, tucked him in and made sure he was quite comfortable. The minute they left him alone, he managed, painfully and laboriously, to prop himself up on one elbow, and looked out the window.
To his surprise, the window faced a brick wall.
The man called for the nurse and asked what could have compelled his deceased roommate to describe such wonderful things outside this window. The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall. She said, “Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you.”
The moral of the story is there is tremendous joy in making others happy, despite our own situations. Shared grief is half the sorrow, but happiness when shared, is doubled. If you want to feel rich, just count all the things you have that money cannot buy. Today is a gift, that is why it is called the present.
Bobbie Lippman is a professional writer who lives in Seal Rock with her cat, Purrfect. She is the author of “Good Grief: A Collection of Stories As One Woman Journeys From Heartbreak To Healing Through Honesty and Humor.” The book, with all proceeds going to the Rotary International Foundation, is available at JC Market in Newport and directly from Bobbie, who can be contacted at [email protected]