There are times that I meet someone and feel grateful for the blessings in my life. As challenging as life can be, I see bigger challenges in the life s/he has. I vividly remember going with my father as a young child to visit a teacher from his young days. As I look back, I was struck by the age this man. While I wondered how he could have ever been a teacher, the tone and respect my father gave him told me the real story. This man was, in his time, a man’s man.
As I looked at him then, I recall that he had a severe stroke. He could barely talk. His functions were limited in many ways. There are obvious reasons for him to despair. He was not going to get better. Every day would be painful, difficult, and long. In the shadows of the room, I could see his eyes light up when we arrived. He clearly loved my father and the memories they shared. As feeble as his body was, his mind was as sharp as ever. I remember noticing this but the biggest impact was yet to come.
In the time that we shared I met someone who loved life! In any form, whatever the hardship, he loved being alive. He was willing to share his love with whoever graced his presence. In the quietness of being alone, I am sure there were demons to be wrestled with. In the presence of my father and me, I only saw and felt happiness, joy, and hope.
As we walked out my father turned and said, “I will never have reason to complain.”
This was a man who touched my life once, forever changing how I looked at obstacles. I realize that many obstacles in my life are ones I created. There is a difference between responding to life (easy or hard) with love and responding with selfishness. An old teacher left me with a ticket to hope. In contrast, “the wicked bought a one-way ticket to [a living] hell.” (Psalm 9.17)