He walks with a bit of a limp; I don’t know the origin. But his gait is one of effort and determination. His eyes alternate, studying intensely, monitoring and dancing, twinkling even. His smile is a burst of warmth and light on the coldest, darkest of nights, a hot loaf of bread to a starving man, a burst of color on a blank canvas. His demeanor is at once, protective, fierce, nurturing, precise, quirky, seasoned, wise and overcoming. And when I look at him, I see all that’s right with the world.
The first time I met him, I was opening the door to leave my urine sample in the restroom. But there he was mid stream. It’s not an ideal first encounter with one’s world renowned physician. But when he came out and said, “We have to stop meeting like this,” I knew we’d be okay.
His story gets me every single time. He lost TEN YEARS of his life to chronic fatigue syndrome. Unable to practice, or live the life he wanted, he began to research the origins of these illnesses, the ones that leave you with crippling fatigue, too tired to breathe, think, live. And he got himself better, and spent the rest of his career making others like him better.
At 85 he’s still doing it. Still giving his years away to folks like me. And it gets me every time. Every time I scan the waiting room filled with pictures of him practicing medicine before I was even born. I think about how easy it would have been for him to give up hope, accept his fate. And I know that his fighting was for more than just him. It was for me, and all of the others like me. And I look at him and I see all that’s right with the world.
I think about how easy it would be for him now to decide that he’s given enough, to give these years to his family instead of me. To rest, to enjoy, and to stop giving others their lives back. But instead I see him walk down the hall with determination. And I see everything that is right with the world.
When I couldn’t sleep at night because the pain behind my eye was so intense, he took my hand and with the sternness of a father said, “You must promise me you will never do that again. If you are in that much pain at two am, you call me then, please. Do you understand”? After so many doctors who just want you to take a piece of paper and go away, it heals something deep within your soul to know that your pain matters.
When the insurance company refuses to pay for things he knows I need, his voice, incredulous, becomes filled with fight on my behalf. And suddenly, someone is in my corner and I am no longer fighting alone.
It’s so easy to become overwhelmed with all that is wrong with the world, but every time I look at this man I am overwhelmed with all that is right with the world. All that is long suffering, all that loves justice, all that protects the weak, all that overcomes, all that is noble and wise. I see all that I long to be. I see me, late into my life, giving my years away, that others might live, might thrive. I see me not quitting when the going gets tough, but pushing through so that I might push others through.
I see you, I see me… stepping up and being all that’s right with the world. Maybe we’ll carry a limp and maybe that limp will make our sacrifice mean more to others.
It’s time for us to be all that’s right with the world.