“Just four miles.” He laughs, and repeats, “Just four miles.”
While I sit in this coffee shop on my Monday off for holiday work leave, I should be writing my graduate school application letter, but I can’t stop but thinking about the unusual situation I put myself in today. I was proud I was finally addressing some of my house-maintenance to-do’s, when I noticed for the second time a 20-something walking up and down South Street with a walking stick, feeling his way up the curbs. I decided to flag him down, intending to just tell him hello and to have a nice day. He proceeded to explain he was a patient at a rehabilitation facility up the street, and his appointment times were changed without his knowledge. His ride had left, and he was stranded for a couple hours. I offered to give him a ride, and he accepted.
As we drove the windy streets four miles to the opposite side of Lincoln, he retold a shocking story, one that I’ve never heard told in person. He was considered a miracle at the Hasting hospital about five years ago. He was *luckily* thrown from the car he was driving 150 miles, while drunk and hyped up on crack and meth. He was “always looking for his next adrenaline rush.”
At this point, I began to seriously question my judgement and life choices that put me in an inclosed cabin a foot from this kid. However, he had shown me his medical bracelet with his name, English as secondary language note, and the fact he had medically diagnosed short-term memory loss. I reminded myself that I approached him and offered myself into this situation. He had to be harmless.
He explained that his limbs were barely attached when he was taken to the hospital, the tubes and surgeries on all parts of his body. He listed off all the facilities he had stayed at. I replied, “you must be going through so much, just by recovering physically, but also by adjusting to your normal life.” He laughed, “yeah, I guess that’s an interesting way to put it.”
I’ve been noticing how common identity changes are. Most happen predictably – child, student, young adult, professional, wife, mom, etc. Some changes are quite abrupt, and much more stressful – drug and alcohol addicts, cancer patients, loss of loved ones (including pets).
But generally, identity changes are good. It means we are making improvements, as often change is spurred by something good. Even when the change is hard, we learn to morn for our past lives. By learning to be sad, we learn to be happy. We learn how be strong, be brave, and to explore ourselves. A life in which you aren’t changing yourself, is a stagnant life.
It has been said that pets that have been abandoned, then adopted are sometimes the most loving, theoretically because they have a much greater appreciation of their new homes. People are kind of like that. We look back at where we have come from, with much more appreciation where we are now. I think it’s important for us to share our stories of grief, struggle, and confession of our mistakes. Everyone is constantly in a stage of transformation to a new identity. Sometimes we are at the rock bottom, sometimes we are at the peak of our good.
I hope I can always stay open to saying ‘yes’. Yes when I’m invited, and yes when I’m considering a new adventure. Yes when I see an opportunity approaching, even in the shape of a blind guy walking in front of my house.
In one of my favorite movies, My Best Friend’s Wedding, I always remember this quote, “Kimmy says if you love someone you say it, you say it right then, out loud. Otherwise, the moment just, passes by.” I think this holds true in life in general. If you feel the urge to take action: say something, put your arm around someone, or just give a stranger a smile, just do it. Otherwise the moment is forever gone.You never know what change it will initiate in you, or anyone observing.
One of my favorite biblical passages is “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 12:3)