The other day I had an appointment for physical therapy (I’m still dealing with the remnants of a fractured and severely sprained ankle as well as torn ligaments and tendons; it’s no picnic, I assure you). As the elevator slowly rode up, it stopped one floor ahead of my destination. A distinguished, elderly gentleman entered and I politely informed him we were going up before it would go down.
“I don’t mind,” he said as he entered the space that a moment ago had belonged only to me. “I sure could use some nice company.”
The gentleman had a fresh bandage on his face, very close to his eye. “You can’t be any meaner than the doctor just was with me,” he said half-jokingly.
“I hope you’re not in too much pain or discomfort?” I offered.
“He’s a great doctor. I’ve been seeing him for 30 years. I’ll be fine,” the man assured me. I gazed at him from the safety and comfort of my side of the moving box. He was neat and well dressed.
The elevator stopped at my floor and as the doors slowly began to open, I turned to him and said, “I hope you heal quickly and don’t have too much pain.”
As I walked out the door he said, “I hope you have a nice life.”
Simple words. In just about any other context, our jaded selves would have assumed that they were not meant to be heard or taken positively. How many times have you heard (or said), “Have a nice life,” and not in a good way?
Just before the door would close on him and this little exchange, I turned to him and said, “Thank you.” For a moment, I felt as if I moved my feet forward, the magic of this exchange would be lost.
As I walked down the hall toward my appointment, I could not help but feel as if I had been given a beautiful gift from a complete stranger. I share this because of the lesson he taught me that I hope to somehow also convey.
We are only as invisible as we make others feel.