I was in a hurry when I left work today. I hustled to the elevator with my carefully mapped out list of things to do scrolling through my head. I pushed the button knowing it would be several more minutes before I reached the ground floor to begin accomplishing my tasks. I boarded the elevator after my wait, and continued to review my strategy for the rest of the day as it slowly clambered downward. As I was daydreaming about my afternoon, the elevator unexpectedly bounced to a stop just one floor short of my destination. The door slowly rolled open and a soft elderly hand gripped the door holding it open while the other motioned for someone else to enter. I backed into the corner and waited to see who the additional rider would be.
A feeble little man approached the opening and I stepped forward to take over the duty of holding the door so that the woman with him could help to ease his walker over the rough entrance. I held the door for this man until he was safely inside and then not one, but two female passengers entered with him. I made my way back to the corner for the slow but short trip to the ground floor. As the elevator began to lower down, this man continued to twist and turn attempting to get his body adjusted in preparation for the upcoming exit. This made the usual seemingly long trip very brief as I watched him struggle with each second that passed knowing that his landing-place would reach him very soon.
As we traveled he bent his head slowly until his eyes met mine, and without opening his mouth he spoke to me. His eyes spoke of gratitude, his face spoke of endurance, and as his head returned to it’s original hanging position it spoke of apology. Just like that he touched my heart, and it made me feel bad that just minutes ago I was in such a hurry to check things off of my list. That’s when it happened. That’s when I took in the whole scene. I looked around at the two women with him. One was his daughter, and the other was his wife. One always in front of him, and the other always behind. I studied their interaction with him in those brief moments until we reached the ground floor. I looked over this man one more time, and I saw something more. I noticed his eyes one more time and the innocence that was resting just behind them. I recognized that innocence. It’s the innocence that comes with succumbing to your circumstances. It comes with the humility it takes to allow others to care for you. I know it well because I have seen it. Up close and personal. I noticed his finely combed hair, and as he turned his head the smell of his aftershave tugged at my heart because I recognized it too. It made me wonder if his wife carefully shaved his face each day the way my mom does for my dad. It made me wonder if she gently pats the aftershave on afterward as the finishing touch of her care.
When we reached the ground floor I heard the bell ding notifying us that we had arrived, and the man’s daughter told him to stay behind so I could get out. I denied her request and once again held the door watching them a little longer. His wife lead the way and patiently waited outside while his daughter coached him in his departure. As he fought with his twisted legs to make them follow her instruction she steadied him with a kind hand on his back and continued to talk him through each step. This perspective was so familiar to me, and I realized that I had not only seen this picture before but I had lived it. He was enduring this trial he was facing and so were the two women who cared for him the most. I know that road. I know the bumps in that path, and I know the strength and courage it takes to continue. Especially for that frail man who was quietly living and allowing himself to be loved. One short lived experience in the elevator after work affected the rest of my day. I slowed down. I paused to have gratitude for my experience because it made me see my own situation through a different set of eyes. It made me realize that even though this time in life is hard, it's precious. It also made me realize that I am not alone. There are others experiencing the same hardships that I am, and we all need someone to lean on. Life is hard, but my ride on the elevator today made me grateful for it. I witnessed the beauty of three people loving each other and suffering together. That's where I want to be in life. Just like those people in the elevator. Although life might be difficult and the trials we face might be hard, the strength we get from going through them is exactly what makes each of us so beautiful.