During the end of my visit to see Ms.D at the health center in our neighborhood, a man rolled up and filled the doorway. I recognized him– he’s always hanging out in the hall and says “Look at the doll!” when he sees Bera (she’s kind of a hit in that place).
Still, he introduced himself to me as “Tony”. He was missing teeth and wore a baseball hat and seemed to be bursting at the joints with liveliness. He calls Mrs.D his “sister” (“Are you visiting my sister?”). It makes her chuckle and it makes me so glad she has him across the hall.
He coos at Bera as I strap her in the stroller. He tells me he had four kids and I tip my hat to him. Then he says that he has already buried two and I freeze, thinking of the sadness this man has to bear.
Tony tells me about a woman that lives on their hall. “She used to always moan. Day and night moaning.” I tell him I remember her. “Well, now…now, she sings.”
I asked him why she sings now. “Because of me!” He somehow says this without a trace of bragging. “I told her that it made me happy to hear her sing, so now she sings.”
“That’s amazing!” I say, “What does she sing?”
He shrugs. “I don’t know. It’s in her own language. But once I wanted to sing with her, so we sang “Que Sera, Sera” together since we both knew the words.”
I am ready to go now, but his wheelchair is blocking the doorway. He starts talking again. “There is another woman here who can’t even eat. Has a tube in her stomach. Tell me why they still bring her into the dining room during meals? It’s cruel.”
I nod in agreement, as if I know anything about living with a tube in my stomach for nourishment.
“And one time, one time it brought me to tears…we had ice cream out back on the patio, and they brought her out as they were serving the ice cream, she held her hands out and was begging for ice cream.” He cupped his hands together and made a moaning sound to demonstrate. “It made me cry…” and I knew he was crying then and I cried with him over the sadness of it and also that such compassion existed in my neighbor.
Then he says, “I’ve lived here many years and I told the Lord could use me, and He does. Everyday. I believe He wanted me here.” And I’m feeling certain by that point that Mrs. D, the moaning lady, and the lady with a feeding tube want him there too.
How beautiful to think of your purpose separate from money or what you can produce or even what you are good at. Because even a man who is old and wheelchair bound and missing a lot of teeth is changing the world for the people around him simply because he is willing.