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Sunday, February 21, 2016

A NEW CHALLENGE

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As you ride up the elevator and then enter the long hall on the 2nd floor of the The Hamptons Center in Southampton, as you walk along the corridor, all you see are people, elderly people sitting in wheel chairs mostly clustered together around the nurse’s stations. Some will look up at you in anticipation of a smile, some emit a cold stare and some just stare ahead into nothing. Many are moaning and sadly asking God for help, help that will never come. They will sit with their despair and anguish, a dark hole filled with no hope.

As you walk down the hall to my daughter’s room, there at the nurse’s station sits a woman, whose age I could not tell you nor is it important enough. She usually positions herself at the edge of both the hallway and the station by herself. Whenever I pass her with Ellen in her wheel chair, this woman focuses on my daughter and gives off the kindest of smiles as she follows her. The woman’s eyes lock into Ellen and without moving her head move along with my daughter, as a kindness permeates from her.

Yesterday I decided to stop and say: Hello. I know it is a risk that she is someone who may not want to talk to me or anyone else for that matter, but she seems so lonely it tugs at me.

“Hi, my name is Joe.” I said.

She looks up at me from under her blanket that covers her lap and says something I don’t quite catch, her face now easing into a graceful mode of smile and acceptance to a stranger.

“How long will you be here?” Once again asking.

Pausing for a moment, she shrugs her shoulders.

“You have family?” I look in her eyes.

She now catches herself to stop a cry. I have hit on a nerve, something is terribly wrong. She says softly: “No”

“Oh, I’m sorry, do you have friends here?” She smiles a little and says she does.

“Could you use another friend?” I ask.

Again she smiles and heartily nods ‘yes’.

I stick out my hand and say I’m Joe.

She takes my hand and smiles warmly at me.

“Where do you come from, do you have a home?”

“No.”

“When will you be able to walk again so you can get out of here?”

Looking up at me, she slowly removes her blanket, first from the left side and then the right. She is missing both her legs from above the knees and one arm!

“OOHH!! I’m so sorry!” I fumble.

“Tell me, do you get any visitors?”

“No.”

“Do you like to read?”

She begins to speak, but I can’t seem to understand much, as she searches for words to say and pronounce, frustrated in her attempt.

I try one more question: “Would you mind if I came by tomorrow and read to you?”

A smile crosses her face, suddenly she is alive. “Oh YES!” she says.

WE agree to meet today to read the beginning of a book. I hope I don’t screw this up.

As I pass the nurse operating from one of the med carts with the computer on it, I stop and ask her about the lady and am told she understand but can’t communicate well. Maybe the power of a written word once more in her ears may help her heal the loss of what she once had and actually never lost. Unfortunately; it will be me trying to help, but until someone better comes along, I’ll have to do.

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