I heard a story today about a chaplain who worked in a veteran’s hospital in the 1950’s. There was an African-American soldier in the hospital who had lost a leg in the Korean War. The physical therapists had worked with him trying to get him used to wear a prosthetic leg. Both the soldier and medical personnel tried everything they could think of but nothing worked and the soldier was ready to give up and live life with one leg and crutches for the rest of his life.
The chaplain was made aware of the situation and stopped by soldier’s bed one night to see if he could be of any help. “I can still feel my leg, my real leg!” the soldier cried. “It’s a phantom pain.” replied the chaplain, “It will go away in time.” “That leg!” retorted the soldier gesturing toward the prosthetic one, “will never be ‘my’ leg.” After visiting with the young man the chaplain prayed with him and asked if he could take the prosthetic one with him. The soldier responded with a shrug.
The next day the chaplain returned with the same leg except it was painted a shade of brown to more closely match the soldier’s own skin tone. “What did you do?” asked the perplexed soldier. The chaplain, hoping he hadn’t offended the young man said he took it home with him and thought painting it might make it seem more palatable. “That’s all you did?” asked the soldier admiring the leg. “That’s it.” smiled the chaplain. The chaplain helped the young man to the side of the bed, attached the leg, helped him take his first few steps and from that day forward the soldier made remarkable progress.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. The chaplain helped the soldier not by insisting he use resources given to him by the hospital but by listening and understanding what the soldier was going through and then adapting his help to the soldier’s personal, unique need.
Too often we see people who need assistance and we automatically assume there are places and resources that are available. We surmise that if someone wants help enough they’ll figure out how to get it. The truth is everyone’s story is unique and unless we listen, understand and are willing to personally get involved many will go on suffering and being blamed for doing so.
My wife is busy painting this Memorial Day weekend. The smell of it is filling the house as she finishes up a couple of rooms she’s been working on most of the summer.
When we moved into our little house every wall, except for those in the bedroom, were white and if you know my wife you know that simply won’t do. She is working her way from the front lobby to the back bedroom. She loves color and her essence is in each shade that decorates the once mundane walls. As I’ve watched her cover them I reflect on the truth that she’s also added some paint to my life over the 26+ years we’ve been married. I am certainly tinted with her essence and wouldn’t have it any other way.
Each of us, every day, is painting the canvas of our lives and others. What we do, who we are, doesn’t just adorn our lives, reveals our character and spirit, but bleeds and splatters onto each person to whom we are connected.
Perusing the news this morning I came across this article in the New York Post. Apparently thieves broke in and stole a Norman Rockwell painting, worth over 1 million dollars (insert Doctor Evil’s voice here), housed in a storage facility.
The police said:
It was not clear who owns the painting, which appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post — whose logo is part of the image — on April 29, 1939. It was sold by a private collection in Birmingham, Ala., for $1,085,000 at Sotheby’s on May 22.
Now far be it for me to tell folks what to do with their money but shouldn’t this picture be hanging on a wall somewhere? I can’t imagine spending that much on a painting but if I did I would be selling tickets, strapping it to my car, carrying it around with me, showing it off! It sure wouldn’t be in a storage unit, not knowing who it’s owner is, waiting for a passerby with sticky fingers.
There are times when life makes us feel we have nothing to offer. It diminishes us. It makes us feel as if we are just one of many, nothing special about us, our talents, skills and abilities.
The truth is we are a unique blessing to the world. We have been made for a purpose. Who we are, what we can do, is to be shown off, given to the world, benefiting humankind!
Our gift of life is a treasure. Our true purpose is of immense value. When we allow it to be seen it can inspire others to find real purpose which is far greater than worldly treasure.
Painting with all the colors,