This past weekend, I was early for an appointment, which is a phenomenon in and of itself, and I decided to take a walk. From across a parking lot, I saw a man in a wheelchair holding up a sign, which I expected would have the words like "homeless and hungry" scrawled across the torn cardboard. When I noticed the man had no legs, my heart sunk into my feet as I glanced gratefully down at them and my ability to walk over to him.
He was a handsome man who looked like he was in his late 30's, surprisingly fit and well kept. His sign read "need money for prosthetics". He said his name is Jose Hernandez.
I struck up a conversation with him and I asked him how much new artificial legs would cost. He intelligently listed the features of different options and told me he would like the best ones, because in the summer they don't sweat onto the stumps still protruding from his hips, to which they would attach.
"How much do those cost?" I asked.
"17,000?" I repeated in shock as I calculated how many people would have to contribute at a rate of $1-$5 for him to meet his goal.
"17,000 each," he amended.
I gingerly asked what happened.
"I was about to get on the Metra train. The platform was slippery. I slipped and lost my legs between the platform and the train."
I wanted to double over in pain at how easily that could happen to any of us. "How long ago did that happen?" I asked.
"Seven years ago."
"I have lawyers that are in court with the Metra, the railroad and the union. Maybe it will come this year. They say that it takes about seven years for them to work it out. I'm hopeful."
"You're hopeful?!!" I thought. Ugh. Seven years of being in a wheelchair without legs, piling up medical bills and trying to negotiate life?
"How do you keep up your spirits?" I asked.
Jose said, "God sees and knows what happened. God is doing His job. My job is to be honest with myself and to stay positive. If I do my part and God does His part, it will all work out. You have to stay honest and positive. I don't collect much with my sign, but I think of this as doing my part - what I can do."
I had to lean on a nearby pole, overwhelmed as I listened to this simple commitment to his faith and his life. I reflected on my complaints and the small ways I allow myself to move to self pity, judgment or blame. My perceptions of life's challenges melted away in that moment and all I could focus on was the uncomplicated faith of a man who took every moment of life as a blessing.
"Jose, you are my inspiration. Thank you. I will keep you in my prayers if you keep me in yours." (I figure that man has God's ear!)
In a world, it is possible to organize our chaotic and complex out of a simple