The lobby of the doctor’s office was crowded. I slid over to accommodate an older gentleman, who was moving toward me.
“Don’t worry,” he said, “my walker has a built-in seat, but I’ll sit next to you and be your guard!” He was dressed simply. His eyes were twinkling. His smile was wide.
Time dragged on. Many in the waiting room showed impatience. They glanced at their watches. They complained to each other.
The gentleman beside me sat patiently. We exchanged pleasantries. We became waiting-room friends. I asked him where he was from, and he told me he was born in Poland. Little by little, he shared his story.
He was a teenager when World War II broke out. He had been in several concentration camps. His body carried the badge of his experience. He wore the death camp numbers on his arm.
“Life is beautiful,” my new friend asserted. “Every day is a gift.” He continued to speak in a highly positive way. He had children. He had grandchildren. He was “privileged” to have visited Israel.
My name was called and I entered the office for my appointment. When I came out the gentleman was still sitting in the waiting room. I went over and thanked him for sharing his story with me and being a role model of courage and tenacity.
“You know,” he said, “what happened to me when I was young, actually was the reason that I have a good life now. I never get upset over the little things that drive other people crazy. I enjoy every day that I am alive. I know they are all a gift. I am truly happy.”
I went outside to give the valet the ticket for my car. As I contemplated my recent conversation, a woman burst out of a black Mercedes. She was elderly, well dressed and coiffed. She was muttering and sputtering as she passed by, but I could clearly hear what she had to say.
“The [expletive] golden years,” she exclaimed, “Well, they stink!” Her face was red. Her voice rose to a wail. “I’m so annoyed,” she added. “Now I’m late for my appointment!”
Yes, things happen. We are late. We are early. We mixed up the date. There are delays and mistakes and problems we deal with all the time. There are bridges that are up and computers that are down, cars that won’t start and leaks that won’t stop.
There is success and failure, joy and angst. There are fender benders and fatal crashes, big catastrophes and minor annoyances and everything in between.
Certainly we should not judge someone from an isolated incident. There is often a “back story” to explain someone’s actions. Nevertheless, I could not help but be compelled by how these two people handled the stress of life.
“Life is beautiful.” “Life stinks.” It’s all in the attitude.
About the Author: Shelley Benveniste is South Florida editor of The Jewish Press.
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