This is an old story of two old men who were living out their days in a hospital, confined to their beds. As I thought of this fable today, I knew that I was supposed to share it with you. I had to write it from memory...I hope you enjoy!
The beds were uncomfortable. The sheets were scratchy. The white walls were barren. It was one of the poorest hospitals in the bustling city. People who worked in the hospital were underpaid and over-worked and there were very few volunteers who came to the give of their time. The old people in this hospital knew that they had been put there like a book on a shelf. After finishing a book, you no longer need it, but you cannot throw it away.
On the 3rd floor, there was a room on the west side of the building where two old men lived. The room was actually much too small to accommodate two beds, but, due to the over crowding and underfunding of the hospital's budgetary needs--the two men had to share the room. It was easier for the nurses this way, as well. For they were so busy, they didn't need to come and check on the men. If something happened to one of them, the men would simply holler for help until a nurse on the ward heard them and came.
In this small room, there was but one window and you could only see out of the window if you were in the bed that was nearest to its opening. The man who had been in the room first was closest to the window--and so his bed remained there when the second bed was added. The first man could see the street, the second man could only see the first man.
The first man would think of his life and remember it well and he would say, "I am so blessed. I lived many years with my wife and though we never had children, we had each other. I am so blessed because even though she has gone on to Glory, I know that she does not suffer that and one day I will join her."
The second man would answer the first man and say, "I am not blessed. My life has been hard. I worked day after day to build my home and to take care of my family. My children are too busy for me, and when they used to bring my Grandchildren to see me--the kids were too loud. Now my wife has died and I am alone. And one day...I will die all alone."
And, so they lived together, but saw the world quite differently. And the only time that the second man ever felt a twinge of happiness was when the first man would share his window. For, although they could not move the beds, the first man would look out the window and share with the second man all the events that were happening outside on the street.
The first man described the park, with its sparkling green grass, winding walkways, and its wooden benches. And most of all, its people
"...the trees have leaves that have turned dark purple. And near the sweetest tree, there is a bench. Today on the bench, I see two young lovers. He is wearing a baseball cap and she has on an orange flower print skirt. Oh, my! He is getting down on one knee. Well...I'll be...he is asking for her to marry him. She is crying now and hugging him! Well, I guess she said yes."
The first man described the people he would see with such detail, that soon the two men had nicknames for the people in their park--the people so busy with life.
"...well, it looks like Harry the Hurried is late again, he's trying to tie that tie while he rushes through the park. The darn fool doesn't even notice Linda the Lonely Lovely Wallflower is wearing a new dress and has been watching him everyday for the last two weeks. She sits on the same bench day after day watching him go by. If he would just slow down, he could find such happiness..."
Day after day, for hours, the first man would tell the second man what he saw out the window. Then one day, a thought occurred to the second man, "Why do I have to only see the world through his eyes? Why can't I look out the window? If only he were gone then I could sit in his bed. If only he were gone then I would get to enjoy the view for myself."
And the second man allowed these thoughts to grow. And grow. And it wasn't too many days later that the first man had a difficult time breathing during the night. He called out to his roommate, "Friend, I cannot breathe very well...help me, my friend, call for me a nurse..."
And even though the second man heard the pleas of the first man, he turned his head to the wall and pretended to sleep. He closed his eyes tighter than ever and imagined the park with its sparkling green grass, winding walkways, and its wooden benches. He imagined the people walking thought the edge of the park and thought of how nice it would be to finally be able to see them for himself.
Morning came and the nurses came around and found that the first man had died in the night. They quickly moved him from the room and left his bed empty. The second man called to them a few hours later and asked, "Can I be moved to the bed near the window? Can you do it today? Can you do it now, so that I might enjoy the view while I grieve for my friend?"
And so the man was moved and the blinds were adjusted so that he might be able to see. And when he turned his head to see the park, he was struck to the core and filled with grief for his friend who had loved him so. For out the window there was no view--there was only a brick wall. A wall to block any view that there might have ever been.
And when the man faced the brick wall to grieve for his friend, he grieved also for a park that did not exist, lovers who did not sit on a bench and people who were never there. And in the end, the bitter man was right about all claims he had made for his life. He did die all alone.