I once had the opportunity to meet an extraordinary man while I was rushing to take my bus back to the suburbs; it was a cold winter night in NYC. He was in his mid seventies, had a cane, could hardly walk and was loosing his balance while carrying several bags. I asked if I could assist him and to my surprise he accepted. I helped him cross the street and then to walk an additional block to his destination, the McDonald’s on 51st St. and Broadway (later on I learned that was where he usually hanged out with his peers). As I walked that block with him he told me so much about his life. The intensity and passion he lived life with could be felt as he vividly described several stories while walking those few blocks. He talked about his travels, his family… how his mother died of cancer and so did his wife, he went to war several times, yet that was the only subject he said he rather not talk about. His name was Paul and he lived in a local shelter. I stopped by that McDonald’s several times looking for him after our encounter, I saw him a few times after that… I remember in one of our conversations he told me he wanted to learn to use a computer. I was so touched by his desire to learn… his age and his current situation didn’t stop him from looking ahead, he had a sparkle in his eye, a will to continue his race… he inspired me. I continued to stop by that McDonald’s from time to time, buy never saw him again. Many times I wonder if I could have helped him find some assistance for veterans so he could have a better quality of life, if I could have helped him get into a senior program to learn how to use the computer, if I could have taught him myself… I wish I could have, but at the end it was Paul who helped me. I took the time to notice people and not just walk by focused on my “to do list”.
With Thanksgiving being around the corner I wanted to share this story that inspired me and literally changed the way I viewed things in life. No matter how difficult life may seem at any time, there is always someone with a bigger need, a harder battle. It is when we learn to take our eyes off ourselves that we can start fully seeing. It is when we start fully seeing that we can make a decision to do something for someone. It is when this happens that we experience the true purpose of living. We have so much to be grateful for, just the fact that we are still here, we have an opportunity to start over again; we have the opportunity to make a difference. Hoping in this season of giving thanks we take the time to notice the things in life we should be grateful for… and also the needs in life we are able to fulfill.