“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” ~Albert Einstein
By Stacey Thompson, Editor
Many years ago on a business trip to Atlantic City, New Jersey I had an unforgettable experience. I was there for a tradeshow to work the booth in my marketing role, along with a group of salesmen. One morning while walking through the train station to get a cup of coffee—the station was adjacent to the convention center where the tradeshow was—I saw a man off in the corner sleeping in a wheelchair. I assumed that this man was homeless because he was wearing a ragged coat and had no belongings with him. As if being homeless wasn’t bad enough, the lower half of his body was missing, from his upper thighs down. He had turned himself around to rest his chin on the back of the wheelchair to support his head so he could sleep.
What surprised me was the deep, calm sleep he was in amidst all the activity in the station. I remember feeling so sad for this man and remaining disturbed by his situation for quite some time. I thought, “This poor man has no apparent home, family, or anyone to take care of him. How did he go to the bathroom? How did he earn money? Did he know where his next meal was coming from?” These thoughts ran through my mind as I walked by him like everyone else.
Later that day, a group of us were walking along the boardwalk after a long workday, ready for a nice dinner. It was a warm spring evening. The ocean was calm and glistening with the rays of the orange sun setting. Right in my walking path, there he was, the homeless man I had seen in the train station earlier that day. He was in his wheelchair looking out at the ocean with a large soda in his hand.
Again I felt sadness and remorse over his situation. I thought of giving him money, but he wasn’t asking for it, and I didn’t want to insult him. Again my thoughts: “What was he thinking while looking at the ocean? How disheartening his life seemed to be to me. How could he even make it through one more day in his condition, not only poor and homeless, but handicapped too?” But then, like a weight lifted from my shoulders, it occurred to me that maybe at that moment he was grateful for being near the ocean. Maybe he was happy drinking a soda and just glad to be alive. Who was I to judge his life? As I walked by him, I saw the most serene look on his face. It seemed he was at peace, with his circumstances, with his life. What an extraordinary man I thought, a heroic survivor of life’s toughest circumstances.
As I write this, I realize that this kind of peace could only come by being fully present in the moment and accepting what life hands you. Honestly, I don’t know how that man was feeling but my interpretation of the experience was that he was immersed in the beauty of the sun quietly setting over the ocean while enjoying a nice cold drink. Possibly experiencing a moment of sublime gratitude. I can only conclude this by the distant, peaceful look on this face. I recognize that these kind of moments is what can keep us going, moments of total presence, free from worry, anxiety, pain, frustration and the many other negative emotions that add to our dis-ease with our life circumstances. I’ll never forget this man and the human resolve he showed me that day as well as to value each moment and be grateful for these moments.