Friday, June 20, 2014

Having Compassion

This is a self portrait I recently painted

Yes I know it has been a long time. I have no excuse for not having written sooner.

Something disillusioning happened yesterday at the RIC gym where I workout a couple of times a week. There is a guy there, I will call him Tom. Tom has be afflicted with multiple schelorsis and is in pretty bad shape. I have so much admiration for him and his tenacity. He tries so hard and despite all that has befallen him, his attitude is one of positivity and hope.

For about the last 6-9 months I have been helping him in whatever way I can, giving him workout tips, helping him grip weights in his uncooperative hands and just generally encouraging him in whatever capacity seems appropriate at the time. After a while we became gym friends.

Tom is in an electric wheelchair because his condition is such that he cannot operate a manual chair. At one point in time he felt comfortable enough to ask me to help him in the bathroom. Tom's hands are so debilitated he cannot undo his belt nor can he unzip his zipper. What I do is move his legs off the foot rest of his wheelchair, this is something he needs to have done to help him to urinate. I also undo his belt and unzip his pants for him.

I must admit I felt a little uncomfortable at first, but that pales in comparison to how he must feel having to ask for my help. Tom pees into a styrofoam cup, he cannot use the urinal and I am unable help him get onto the toilet. The simplest thing to do is to do what he does. After urinating into the cup he pours it down the sink, rinses the sink and rinses his hands.

While he is taking care of business, I look the other way and make small talk, easing the situation and making both he and I more comfortable. When he is finished, I zip up his pants, refasten his belt and put his legs back on the footrest of the wheelchair, then we get back to the business of working out.

We have been doing this for months and often times other men come into and out of the restroom without incident. Yesterday we did what we always do and there were a lot of guys in and out of the bathroom. There was an older man with some type of leg brace and when he saw Tom pour the urine down the sink, he said in a very loud voice, "Don't pour that down the sink, pour it in the urinal. People use that sink to wash their hands."

This was quite embarrassing for Tom and I knew it. I looked up at the rude insensitive man and I said in none too friendly a tone, "Leave him alone, he is doing the best he can do." I was furious, I could feel my blood boiling over and I wanted him to say something more about it because had he persued it further, I was really going to let him have it. Fortunately for him he dropped it.

It didn't make sense to me that a man who was somewhat incapacitated himself could be so insensitive to another's plight. Where is the understanding and sympathy? It seemed to me that this man was angry and bitter about his own situation and his bitterness would not allow him to see past his own situation. One look at Tom's poor mangled body should have evoked feelings of compassion, a willingness to want to help or some small grain of understanding,  but oviously  it did not.

As I have stated in previous blog posts, one of things I find most rewarding about working out at the RIC gym is the comradery between gym patrons. The lack of judgment and the total acceptance of everyone toward the other is what makes this gym so unique. I guess this man didn't get the memo.

Even though I have lost both of my legs, I realize there are scenarios that are worse. At RIC I am able to help others, and it gives me great pleasure to do so. I am thankful I have full use of my arms and hands and if I can put them to use to help another I am going to do it, without hesitation and with gratefulness.

My aunt, Lynda, who has been stricken with Parkinson's Disease, told me in a conversation we had that when someone else helps you, they are not only helping you, they are also helping themselves, both have been blessed. It is a mutual benefication. I try to remember that when I myself feel burdensome to others.

We are all in this together, but by God's grace anyone could find themselves in any of a myriad of unfortunate circumstances, and we owe it to each other to make life easier and happier in whatever way we can.

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