Paul is my neighbor across the street. He’s a retired Hispanic man, probably in his late 50s. Paul is about my height with a large Buddha-like belly and skinny legs. He is a genuine person who’s always been gracious to me. We often stand in the middle of the road shooting the breeze when I’m in-between sessions. We make small talk about music, travel, and current politics.
Paul’s yard is mostly dirt due to regional drought conditions, but it’s lined with well planned shrubs, flowers, and has several trees in strategic places. Despite that it’s mostly dirt, the yard is well groomed and pleasing to look at. Paul spends a good portion of each morning walking around his yard raking the dirt, trimming the shrubs, occasionally bending down to pull weeds, but most often just surveying and inspecting his landscape.
In the 3 years I have lived here, I’ve seen Paul in his front yard almost every day. Most days, even in winter, Paul is shirtless, seemingly proud of the belly that blazes the trail ahead of him.
A couple weeks went by recently and I hadn’t seen Paul. Because he’s not a supreme physical specimen and due to his age, I began to wonder if he had a stroke, a heart attack or worse. After the third week of not seeing him I walked across the street to speak with his wife one morning. She explained to me that Paul had lost his left foot due to diabetes and was hospitalized. She told me he would be coming home soon and would have nursing care coming to the house to help him with the transition.
“After he settles in” she told me, “you can come over and visit.” That made me smile. I then offered my sympathy, asked her to say hello to Paul when she visits him in the hospital, and made sure she knew I would be available for any help they might need once he returns home.
A few days ago Paul came home. One morning his wife reached out and asked if I would help get Paul’s wheelchair out the front door and help him into the car for a medical appointment. This would be the first time I had seen Paul since his return home. When I stepped into the house he was in his wheelchair with this back to me. As soon as he knew I was in the house he began crying and said…
“I’m sorry Roy, I fucked up. I really fucked up. They told me what to do — I knew what to do and I didn’t do it. I’m really sorry Roy…“
I couldn’t understand why he’s being apologetic to me, but he was clearly embarrassed, distressed, and regretful.
I assured him that I wasn’t being judgmental, that I was there to help, and I that I will continue to help whenever needed. I gently suggested to him that he look forward and think about the future and recovery now. I helped get the wheelchair out the front door and ease Paul into the car. During the process, he never quit crying and expressing his regret.
Before they drove away, I told Paul I’d stop by in a few days and we could catch up a bit more. He looked down, mumbled something I couldn’t understand, and they drove away. I haven’t seen Paul since, though I plan to knock on his door in the next few days to visit with him.
I’ve been chewing on his words though, quite a bit over the last few days. It was one of the most human experiences I’ve had in recent years. Those words keeps resonating…
“They told me what to do — I knew what to do and I didn’t do it.”
It doesn’t get any more human than that, does it…? We all know what to do about so many things, yet so often we fail. We know what to do, and we just don’t do it.
When I think about this — really think about it, I am reminded of the importance of being forgiving and accepting of others as I hope they will do so with me.
I think about the human side of failure. I think about perfection being within anyone’s grasp, yet I look around and I see so little of it anywhere. The idea of knowing the path to perfection yet never getting there was at the heart of most of Augustine‘s writings. There but for the grace… Jhciacb
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