This week I had to go to the hospital to check out whether I had pneumonia. My Dr. sent me for a chest x-ray to rule it out.
You know the routine…remove all your clothes from the waist up and wear a johnny shirt tied in the back. When I came out of my cubicle I sat down in one of the chairs and looked at the only other person in the room who was also wearing a johnny shirt and sitting in a wheel chair.
I tend to not have a problem looking people in the eye…and this man didn’t have a problem with it either. We stared each other down and communicated that way for quite a while and then I felt the need to actually speak words.
This man’s legs were so swollen up, that they were at least twice the size of what they should have been. When I came home I looked up the possibilities…liver, heart or kidney problems.
I estimated him to be in his 50′s, with a full head of curly, longish, salt and pepper hair. His face was thin, with a body to match, except for his legs. My impression was that he was a outdoors working man, probably a woodsman because his complexion had been chiseled by the wind and the sun. I was immediately attracted to his spirit and to his openness.
As soon as the first few words left his throat, I realized that he was a being of not necessarily diminished capacity but more so of a lack of education or lack of opportunity in his life.
My friend had just finished talking about how when washing his feet he had been shocked by his legs. I glanced down. Washing his feet? What? His toe nails were literally black and long with some curling under. I have never seen such a display. My first thought, “here is a poor man”.
Wait a minute…did I just made the judgment that if a person is dirty that automatically means they are poor? Or did I just believe that no one else but a poor person could become this way? His fingernails were dirty too, but I accepted that as a given especially for an outdoors person. So what’s with the feet?
I looked back up to his face again. There was something in his eyes as I looked into them. Was it receptiveness? Timidity? I think it was vulnerability. This man had been hurt in his life. Yet he couldn’t be anything else but open…that’s who he was and I liked him for it.
Somehow his dirtiness didn’t matter any more. It wasn’t my place to make any judgments. I had made too many bad ones through the years to actually be able to be confident in them. It’s a liberating thing you know…this judgment thing is a heavy load to carry around for nothing.