“Kindness is a language that even the blind can see and the deaf can hear.”
~ Mark Twain ~
When I first saw “Freddy” (not his real name), I thought he was a homeless man who had wandered into our garage, and found our driver’s waiting room to sleep in. He was stretched out on a bench in faded dirty overalls and shirt, his grey stubble bristling. Could he be destined to die in a heap, the same way that he lived? One day just stop moving? Well, maybe not?
I never dreamed that he would be part of a miracle that I would witness. A miracle certainly of modern medicine, but more importantly of how the Lord in his incalculable wisdom can make seemingly unrelated events lead to a real transformation.
I found out that he was one of our drivers, and that he was deaf. Some of the other cab drivers would say insulting things about him behind his back, “He stinks, that filthy old bum, he never takes a bath” and the like. I would tell them that I felt sorry for him and that maybe he had mental problems and couldn’t help it. He lived in a broken down trailer next to the garage and in hot weather when his little home got too stifling he would sleep in the air conditioned drivers’ room.
A few drivers literally lived there. Some would sleep in the old wrecked cabs in the parking lot. One poor soul died in one of those cabs last summer. He was covered by ragged blankets and wasn’t discovered for days. A few times in hair raising near misses with reckless drivers I have prayed, “Dear Lord please don’t let me die in a cab. Let me die at home surrounded by my pictures of Jesus.”
How these men can drive every day and not have a place to live was beyond me? Usually it is gambling that takes all their money. Many gamblers are attracted to cab driving because they are paid daily in cash.
I never saw anyone say a kind word to Freddy. I call myself a Christian so I would say hello to him or wave to him as he shuffled by, eyes on the ground. Mostly he would not respond, but once in a while he would nod or shyly whisper hello. I thought that he should know that at least one person in the world cared about him. Sometimes that can make all the difference in the world.
About a year ago the vision in my right eye got real blurry and I, of course, panicked. I feared I would lose my eye, lose my job and apartment, my little oasis of peace. I immediately learned a new saint, Saint Lucy, the Patron Saint of Eye Troubles, and prayed to her often. I also awoke my great protectors Saint Michael, Saint Benedict and Saint Joseph many times in the middle of the night to ask them to keep me from harm.
Soon I was directed to the emergency room of the right place by the grace of a very concerned optometrist. I had two laser surgeries for a torn retina at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary. It is a major miracle how they can mend a torn optic nerve from the brain with a laser. Now my vision is perfect. Thanks to masterful work done at one of those unsung little islands of goodness where miracles of healing are commonplace, and little is known about its existence. Sight and hearing are restored daily in over 100 surgeries, and this story is not proclaimed to the high heavens!
I told one doctor there, “The New York Times should have a reporter here every day to report the real headline story of the day: Sight and Hearing Miraculously Restored to 100 People Today!” I joked to some of the doctors and staff, “Jesus healed the blind man and when he got too busy, he sent everyone else here.” The doctors would smile, but quickly move on to another patient; “Next.” They see hundreds here every day.
But back to Freddy, because this story is not about me. I always seem to land on my feet—thanks to a merciful and very, very patient Lord.
Guided by Faith
I realized that this new place where the Lord had sent me, that I had never before known existed, would be a great gift to give to Freddy. The answer to his terrible plight, maybe his lifelong cross, right? Well, I told him about this wondrous place in the best pigeon English I could, because he had trouble with the language as well as with his hearing. But instead of being elated, which is what I expected, he said, “No insurance.” I told him that was not a problem, because there are charities that would pay much of the bill. Then he told me he was just too busy, “No time. Workee, workee.”
No time to get your hearing restored? Well, I can be the same way sometimes, putting things off until the wolf is at the door.
Then last summer the crisis came. His vision got so bad that he couldn’t drive so he had to go to the infirmary. He disappeared for a week, when one day I saw a man with a shining face, freshly shaven, and wearing nice clean clothes approaching me. I didn’t recognize him at first. It was Freddy. He looked twenty years younger! He was beaming, and pointing in the direction of the clinic exclaiming, “I go. They fix.” Then he pointed to his eye. I smiled and clasped my hands in prayer and looking to the heavens said, “Thank God!”
I asked about his ears and he said, “Next month, they fix.” Now when I see him he smiles or gives me a fist bump. The other drivers still shun him like a leper. One time he was sleeping on a chair, his bare feet propped up on another chair. I just had the urge to tickle his feet, like you would a baby. But I had this fear of what the other drivers would think. I thought of St. Francis and the leper who at first repulsed him and he passed him by but he went back to embrace him. Hey, I took Francis as my Confirmation Name, and you can’t have that name and shun unfortunate people. Or you have to give the name back. So I overcome my fear and I gave Freddy a little tickle. While the others scowled at us, he looked up and saw it was me, and shyly smiled.
Now don’t get me wrong. We didn’t ride off into the sunset to a sports bar together. He’s a tough old bird, and so am I at times. We keep a polite distance, and to be truthful, he’s not always scrupulously clean, but then again neither am I.
I haven’t seen him at all this week. Maybe he’s at the infirmary getting his hearing restored. It would be a great Advent gift. God’s wonders never cease. Please pray for Freddy.
Recently it seemed so clear to me that this was all part of a plan. My eye going blind so I would find the place where Freddy needed to go. Some could think that he would have found this miracle clinic anyway, but I don’t know. I have been amazed at some people’s inability to find the obvious place that would help them the most. He could have been wandering around the city nearly blind and deaf not knowing where to go, not even knowing where he was. He might not have made it through the winter.
Gratitude for My Journey
The Catholic Church is like that. So many lost and hurting, and they don’t think of the one place that could heal them the most. In the very earliest Church, sick people would actually go to the Mass for healing. A few still do.
It took me most of my life to find it. I was hurting and depressed, but it was the last place I considered. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would become a Catholic, maybe a Buddhist, but a Roman Catholic? Never! But by the miracle of Mother Angelica and EWTN I did—the greatest day of my life!
Now I think that the Lord lets me get knocked around when I count on myself too much. He knows how much I can take. Then he gives me just a little more, so that I get knocked to the ground.
Then just when the devil is about to count me out and gleefully take another prisoner, I look up from the dirt to the Lord and say, “Lord my way didn’t work again, please help me.” He picks me up, splashes some Holy Water in my face, puts the Eucharist on my tongue, and I am good to go, better than before. Now I want to tell everyone about this font of unfathomable healing that I have found.
Maybe you and I, through our suffering, can tell other “Freddy’s” about other hospitals for the sick, and the one great Universal Hospital for Souls, with her arms open wide, 24/7. “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
© 2013 Jamey Brown All rights reserved.