The Window

January 13, 2003

Two men, both gravely ill, occupied the same hospital room.  One man was able to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his diseased lungs.  His bed was next to the only window in the room.  The other man was forced by illness to spend his time flat on his back.

The men talked for hours on end.  They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, and their travels.  Every afternoon when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.  The man in the other bed began to live for those brief periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside.

As the man who could sit up described it, the window overlooked a park with a lovely lake.  Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats.  Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color of the rainbow.  Grand old trees graced the landscape, and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.  As the man by the window described all this in exquisite detail, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine the picturesque scene.  One warm afternoon the man by the window described a parade passing by.  Although the other man couldn't hear the band, he could see it in his mind's eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it in precise detail.

The days slowly passed.

One morning, the day nurse arrived with their breakfast only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window.  He had passed away peacefully in his sleep.  All were saddened by his death, none more so than the man on his back.  As soon as it seemed appropriate, he asked if he could be moved next to the window.  The hospital staff were happy to comply and after making sure he was comfortable, left him alone.

Now he struggled to raise himself, turn and look out the window beside the bed.  Finally, he would have the joy of seeing it all for himself.  Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the world outside…only to discover that the window faced a blank wall.  Despondent, he sank back into his bed.

Later the man asked the hospital staff what could have compelled his roommate to describe such wonderful things outside the window.  He was shocked then to learn as well, that his departed friend was nearly blind and could probably not even see the wall.  "Perhaps," the doctors said, "he just wanted to encourage you and give you reason to hope."

To each of us will come opportunities to see beyond our own adversity and difficulties and reach out and help someone else in need.  As you travel home this evening, ask yourself, "What will I do when asked to describe the scene from my window?"

Good night gentlemen