A 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 is daunting.

Let’s stop thinking about ourselves and think of others. Easier said than done. Nonetheless, this wish came to me the other night when I attended a show at a local theater. Working my way through a large number of people in the lobby, I walked upstairs and took my place in line for the men’s room when I spotted a woman ahead of me. “This is the Men’s room,” I tell her, convinced she’s 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 said. I grab his arm and guide him to a stall. 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, and then hand him some paper towels.

“I usually have my cane,” he tells me as we head out the door, “but my wife is my cane tonight.”

He thanked me, and we both took our seats inside the theater.

Now, I’m not sharing this story to tell you what a wonderful guy I am. I’m telling you what I realized after I helped Tom. He made me stop thinking of myself. Metaphorically, I was struggling to navigate through some problems I was trying to solve, and he was trying to navigate all the obstacles directly in front of him every second.

The time I spent with Tom lasted maybe 10 minutes, but when I sat down, I began to appreciate the things I took for granted. I could not only enjoy the music but clearly see the show. I could walk down the stairs and cross the street without thinking, much less worrying about safely getting to the other side.

For those 10 minutes, I did not know Tom’s politics or religion, his stand on abortion, or anything about his background and personal beliefs. And he didn’t 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 and enjoy the music and friends.

After the concert, I stood in the lobby trying to find him. I wanted to thank him. But he had left the theater with his wife.

All of us need help, from time to time . . . all of us need each other . . . if only to quiet the noise inside our heads and appreciate what we have.

Isn’t that the true spirit of Christmas?


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