Lesson From Tom

Published: November 21, 2023

By Jim Lichtman
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With much of the world in chaos, summoning the Holiday spirit this year seems to be a difficult task.

Let’s stop thinking about our own problems and think of others.

This wish came to me the other night when I attended a show at a local theater—large audience. People in line, and I see this woman walking down to the men’s room with an old man. “This is the Men’s Room,” I tell her, convinced she made a wrong turn. “The Ladies is on the other side.”

She turns and politely says, “I’m trying to help my husband. He has trouble seeing.

“Let me help him,” I grab his arm and guide him to a stall. I wait. His name is Tom, by the way. He comes out and I guide him to the sink, guide his hands under the soap and water, then hand him some paper towels.

“I usually have my cane,” he says, “but my wife is my cane tonight.”

He thanked me and we both inside the theater.

I’m not sharing this story to tell you what a wonderful guy I am. I’m telling what I realized after I helped the old man.

He made me stop thinking of myself and all the noise going on in my head. Metaphorically, I was struggling to navigate my way through a long list of problems. In that moment, however, he reminded me about being physically blind and trying to navigate around all the things that are directly in front of him every second.

The time I spent with Tom lasted maybe 15 minutes, but when I sat down, I began to appreciate the things I take for granted. I could not only hear the music but see the show. I could walk down the stairs and cross the street without even thinking about not getting to the other side.

For those 15 minutes, I didn’t’ know Tom’s politics or religion, his stand on abortion or anything about his background and personal beliefs. And he didn’t not know mine. He needed help and I happened to be there. I helped him navigate the Men’s room and he helped me forget about all the noise in my head enjoy the music and friends.

After the concert, I stood in the lobby of the theater to see if I could find him again. I wanted to thank him. But he he’d left the theater with his wife.

So, how can we summon the Holiday spirit?

It may be simple to say but too difficult to demonstrate: We all need each other’s help occasionally, ff only to quiet the noise inside our heads.


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