ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker

A WONDERFUL LIFE

You probably don’t know Mike.  But if you’re lucky, you may know someone like him.

Mike is a good and honorable man.  His best friend describes him as “a man of faith” who “values family and friends.”

“Mike is a man I can trust,” the friend said, “one with whom I can share my most guarded feelings or fears, knowing that he will offer a confidential ear or a helping hand.”

Mike’s wife, Charlene, describes her husband as “a giver.  If he sees a need, he wants to help.”  His brother, George, calls him “humble and quiet.”  He even regrets “the times I punched my humble and quiet brother in the nose.  He never really deserved it.”  Mike’s daughter, Hanna, remembers getting up for school at 5 a.m. every morning and seeing her father sitting on the couch reading his Bible.  “I don’t think he ever missed a day,” she said.

And Hanna’s husband, Tracy, described his father-in-law this way: “Mike is the kind of man who, when you’re around him, makes you want to be a better person . . . His motives are pure and his desires are selfless.  I have often wondered whether or not I could become a loving husband and father as he is.  I suppose it is a standard that will challenge me all my life.”

Mike isn’t the type to be out front leading or lecturing or sermonizing or telling others what to do.  But he’s the type that people are drawn to because of his quiet faith, his powerful example, and his unquestioned loyalty and love.

Today Charlene and other family members and friends are drawn to a hospital room in Pennsylvania, where Mike is battling some “complications” resulting from the cancer that was just recently discovered in his body.  These complications are, according to Mike’s surgeon, “baffling” (“That’s the last thing you want to hear from your surgeon – that he is baffled,” Charlene said).  Mike is in pain.  He’s losing weight rapidly, and his strength is waning.  This is a difficult time for him and for all those who love him.

But as challenging as all of this is for Mike physically, the hardest part for him is being a receiver.  As Charlene said, Mike is a giver.  It’s not in his nature to be helpless or taken care of.  He has always been the one who provides for others and responds to their needs.  But now circumstances beyond his control have made him needy, and those for whom he has cared in the past are taking advantage of the opportunity to care for him and his family.

“It’s been amazing,” Charlene said.  “Whenever we get on the verge of discouragement and despair, someone will come along and bless us with kindness.  Co-workers donating their sick days so I can spend more time with Mike. Others providing us with gas cards to help defray the expense of so many trips to the hospital.  Friends calling and praying with us on the phone and in person – oh, how we have been strengthened by those prayers!”

Recently Mike celebrated his birthday in the hospital.  It wasn’t much of a birthday, to be honest.  The doctor had delivered some discouraging news, and then followed that up with a stern lecture to Charlene to keep Mike’s spirits up.  But Mike and Charlene refused to be discouraged by the cancer or the complications or the lectures.  Instead they focused on the many kindnesses that had been offered, from the many prayers that had been offered in their behalf to the nurses who came into Mike’s room to sing “Happy Birthday.”  Later that night he and Charlene stood at the window of his hospital room and watched as a fireworks display erupted over a nearby stadium – fireworks that seemed to be especially meant for them.

“Sometimes I feel like George Bailey in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’” he said.  “For the first time in my life I’m in a situation that I can’t fix, and it’s humbling to have everyone we know – and a lot of people we don’t know – rallying around us to help us through it.”

The couple stood silently for a moment, basking in the explosive glow of cascading fireworks and in the compassionate, ongoing service of family and friends.

“Even after everything we’ve been through these past weeks,” he said, quietly, “it really is a wonderful life.”

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— © Joseph Walker

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Look What Love Has Done:  Five-Minute Messages to Lift Your Spirit. 

"How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen?  Home Remedies for an Ailing World."