For the last two weeks, I have written about Gary, a recovering alcoholic and addict, who even to this day continues to reach out to help others. On September 11, 2001, from his office Gary saw the twin towers of the World Trade Center collapse. Although in pain from a bad case of the shingles, he wanted to do whatever he could. So he asked God to use him. As he prayed and walked, he ended up in a Triage in Hoboken, NJ, where he listened to people tell their stories.
Often as Gary worked through the day, his thoughts went back to the time when he had been homeless because of his alcohol and drug abuse, how he had no hope, and how his life seemed to be over. But that day in the Hoboken Triage he was being used to comfort people who felt hopeless – just like he had. He felt like a wounded healer.
Late in the day as Gary was taking a break, an exhausted emergency health worker sat down beside him. He said to Gary, ‘Would I like a drink! But I can’t do that. I’m a recovering alcoholic, and I’m feeling a little bit sorry for myself. Tonight I was going to celebrate my three years of sobriety, but I won’t make it. I need to be here.”
Without even thinking, Gary reached into his pocket and took out his recently earned three-year sobriety coin. He took the worker’s hand and put the coin in it. ‘Well, here is your three-year anniversary award. Congratulations. You certainly deserve it,’ was all he could say. They hugged promising to remember their mutual three-year ‘celebration.’
After midnight, dazed and exhausted, Gary finally reached his apartment. It had been a long day. His body ached, and he was covered with ashes and dirt. Although he wanted to fall into bed and sleep, he knew he had to take a shower. As he rinsed the soap from his body, he was shocked to see that his painful shingles blisters had turned into scabs. He watched in wonder as the water washed the scabs off his body and down the drain.
Somehow that day Gary had been healed of the shingles. But that healing seemed small to Gary compared to the spiritual healing that took place inside him. He understood that the more he listened and the more people were helped by him, the more strength he received. Gary learned an important lesson – that the way to heal yourself is not to focus on your own difficulties but to give yourself in service to others.
Sometimes, when we are tired and hurting from our tribulations and afflictions, we may find that reaching out and helping others in need is the most healing thing we can do for ourselves – and for others. By responding with courage and compassion to suffering and loss, we may find deeper meaning and significance in our lives.
Beloved Healer, we thank you for the lessons we can learn from you and from one another. We ask that you teach us to truly trust in you, to learn to follow your example of reaching out to others – even when we are exhausted or in pain or in doubt. May we remember that you are our great healer. We thank you. Amen.