In the course of my remarkable journey through life, I have been blessed beyond measure by the number of lives that I get to encounter. And when I use the word ‘encounter’, I mean it literally – at train stations where there are no escalators or elevators. The chap giving up his seat on the morning train while people are still trying to complete their quota of sleep in an insane bid to multi-task. The fruit grocer who tells me to have an extra pound of grapes even though I just have enough for only one pound. The Procuring officer who, without a hint of irritation in her voice, logs in an extra thirty minutes (off the books) just so I get there on time to finalise my business dealings with them. The charming lady with kids who insists on helping me with my shopping despite my clamour for chivalry. I could list complete strangers who just by their actions with no regards to any form of obligation or brevity of time have become contacts on my phone book. Most of whom, I am fully aware, will continue dealing with their own issues as soon as they get off at their predestined stop.
Those are the family of strangers that I belong to and within the time frame of our interactions, I know that they have inexplicably earned a paragraph, a page, a chapter in my life’s tale. Today, I look at my phone book and due to the insistent demand for independence by my neurological system, I have figured out new ways of getting hitherto simple tasks completed with the least amount of added stress to an already over burdened system. To every name, there is a face to match because just like I was explaining to my daughter yesterday about how the brain is a muscle, I had hitherto engaged in mental exercises that ensured that my memory was catalogued. I do not forget faces or names but with the unrelenting clamour for autonomy by my nerves under the strong influence of dystonia, I have learned how much of an anguish it is when I try to engage in placing a face when I hear a name or matching a name to a face as we converse…….and so I just reinvent a new method of mental indexing to lighten the associated burden of doing things the old way.
Needless to say, I still remember, and when faces and memories ricochet in my head like a hastily fired off shot from the muzzle of a Springfield XD 3″ sub-compact semi auto pistol in a tiny confined space, I have learned the futility of trying to catch the bullet or limit its bouncing around. There’s no good result regardless of how much effort I make and so I just reinvent new methods. Still there are lives that so significantly interspersed with mine that I cannot help but just put them in a category much more easier to rifle through. Now I chuckle when I remember “there are many ways to kill a rat” because now, it’s so amazingly simple to just open the door and let the rat go find someone else with the energy to alternate between the many ways of ridding the world of just that one rodent.
Within the space of four weeks, I learned of the demise of two men (way past the prime of their youth) who touched my lives in so much different ways as their locations. Two continents apart, one life being the only common factor, mine. One preferred to get from me as much as he could even though he rationalised it by saying ‘it’s because of your condition I am even negotiating with you’ – when in reality, there was no respite applied. The other, was as open-hearted as I have ever seen anyone been and even when he struggled to remember the subject of our last conversation, he would still embrace me and plant a kiss on my cheek while propping himself up with his walker. He gave more of himself than I ever gave to him because when the twilight comes creeping in, we more often remember the givers than the takers.
In response to my enquiries, one passed away alone with no relatives or friends with him until he was discovered by one of his tenants. The other had nothing but a long list of lives he had touched with his humility, compassion and smile; who stayed with him till he transitioned with a hymn on his lips and a smile on his face. Am I in anyway trying to make light of the fact that to every season, there is a beginning and an end? Definitely not, but I still cannot picture how sad it is to exit the stage alone and unobserved by the rows of spectators who watch our lives because in all fairness, we are all called upon to play our roles on this stage of life. And so, I know that regardless of how poorly a role you might have played, the least you deserve is a slight smattering of applause just for showing up. However, my question is why would I settle for the polite applause when I can get a standing ovation, not in response to fame or my gaudy attire but in response to the collection of individual lives that were so impacted by our meeting.
When the final stage curtains are dropped and your role is done, what would be the response? Mere courtesy or deep hearted appreciation, I choose the latter every day and so my intent is not to run around like I’m in a game of tag (well I don’t run anymore) but to ensure that whether the duration of encounter is measured in minutes or by decades, I gave of myself both in cash (when it’s there) and in kind. It is so easy to gravitate towards the company of those who give than the company of takers but remember that you are the star character in your own role, and whilst you may delight yourself in being ‘smart’; there is something within you that is meant to be shared with others. “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without wall” – Proverbs 25:28 Of what use is a city without walls, how do you provide safety for those entrusted to you?
We are all cities; size, population etc might vary but a city is what you are, and so in this arena called life, what makes you stand-out? Handouts from your fully stocked cellars and granaries might suffice for a bit but when the curtain falls and your granaries and cellars are pillaged and looted by strangers, the insignificance of your handouts would suddenly become glaring and shameful. We are cities stocked for the long run, and giving is a sacrifice but sacrifices are not a hobby in any location I have been to during my sojourn. Though my walls may be in dire need of a fresh coat of paint, and my watch towers have slowly lost their glimmer, there is still something to share with that stranger who seeks solace in the shadows of my walls. Though the buffet table be removed and the fountains but trickle slowly, there is still enough to parch both our thirsts. Though my blankets have all but lost their fleece, and the chandeliers are but a spot on the ceiling, I know that the warmth of our conversation; true and sincere, will create memories never to be forgotten when the time to part ways draws near.
Remember that time never stands still, but even with its passage when the arms of sleep so tightly embrace, memories will always be created.
עד שנפגשנו שוב, אולי התענוגות שלו להיות העונג שלך לעשות