Butterfly Sparks Designs

Friday, February 19, 2010


My employer makes sure its employees feel appreciated. So the head honcho around here hosts a birthday lunch each month for those celebrating birthdays. The luncheon is held in our most plush conference room, and is catered beautifully. The grand poo-bah (a super nice guy) says lots of words of affirmation and appreciation for our hard work, we receive a gift, and we get to enjoy a 1.5 hour lunch break. Sweet deal. We also go around the very large conference room table and introduce ourselves (a huge company, not all of us have met).

As we went around the table yesterday, I got to meet Allen. Allen sat a few seats away from everyone. I’ve seen Allen before, in the cafeteria here. Always sitting alone, a few tables away from where others are gathered, but always smiling. When I walk into our cafeteria here, it’s like re-living a bad high school flashback, when you’re not sure about where to sit, with whom, and that feeling of awkwardness when you just don’t fit in anywhere specific. So seeing Allen sitting alone almost every day makes my heart sad.

But yesterday, I got to hear him utter some words for the first time. Allen works in receiving, and logs in all of our lab samples. We get thousands of them every day. He is one of a team who makes sure that those samples get coded to the right patients. If that doesn’t happen, people can die. Seriously.

Allen stutters. But the more he stutters, the more he smiles. His hands are also just slightly deformed. I never noticed that before. I’m guessing it’s some sort of palsy. He moves slowly and talks slowly, but when he speaks, is very articulate. And have I mentioned he’s always smiling? Always.

I had to fight everything within me not to start bawling right there at lunch yesterday. But he doesn’t need me to cry for him or his disability. His big, bright smile tells me that.

I have an out-of-state friend who is a quadriplegic. I’ve known him for years. His injury came when he was 20 years old, in a skiing accident. He’s in a chair now, and has been for the past 20 years. But he still skis and skydives and bungee jumps and gets up every morning and leads a more active life than I ever have, with all of my limbs working fully. I cry when I think about him sometimes. I cry when I get a gift from him in the mail, because I know what it took for him to get himself out of the house, to the store, and to the post office. But again, he doesn’t need my tears. He’s good.

So why do I feel a lump in my throat and an overwhelming urge to weep on their behalf? I tell myself it's because they must be lonely and sad. But if I get really honest about it, I don’t cry or feel sad for them as much as I cry and feel sad for me. Because honestly, sometimes (most of the time), I don’t have a spirit of overcoming challenges like they do, and I grieve that.

I saw Allen again in the cafeteria about 30 minutes ago when I went down to grab lunch to bring back to my desk. On my way out, I stopped and wished him a Happy Birthday again. He expanded his already bright smile. I couldn’t resist. I asked him, “Allen, why do you smile all the time? Don’t your cheeks get sore?” He laughed, with cracker crumbs flying out of his mouth, as he said, “Because Jesus loves me.”

Yes, He does. And Allen, you just preached the most beautiful sermon to me that I’ve ever heard. 


Stacey said...

Wow. Thanks for sharing:) That is really moving.

Gabriela said...

Beautiful story and beautifully written. Thanks for posting.