I was walking down the street in my town, pulling my corgi in a cart because his back legs don’t work anymore, with tears in my eyes knowing that this may be one of our last walks…
And I saw a woman, sitting on the sidewalk across from the town bar, crying.
I was in no space to be emotionally present. But my corgi cheers people up just by his presence. So I figured if…
She said hi to him as we went by. I moved him closer to her so she could pet him.
As I was telling her about his condition, she recognized me. We met, maybe six weeks prior, one of the only times I’ve been to the bar this year. She is a really friendly older lady, and we just happened to have a great conversation the first time we met. We probably only spoke for ten minutes inside that loud bar, but we both had a good time. She asked why I haven’t been by, and I told her I have trouble getting out of the house at night.
“Wife and kids at home?” She said.
“Yep, both wife and kids” and I love them dearly.
We both agreed that it was good to see each other. She went back to the bar, composed, and I and my corgi went towards home.
Today I met an Iraq war veteran, my age, who is wrecked by PTSD. Did two tours, saw combat. Amazingly sweet and gentle. Thanked my intern and I for making him laugh, because when he feels sick he normally doesn’t laugh. So thankful, and ready to undergo whatever is in store for him to get to the other side. The kind of person that I just want to help with everything I have…
When we left, I said to my intern “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
I was 18 on 9/11. I was in great physical shape then. I didn’t join because I knew we were bad at insurgencies. I knew we weren’t going to know who the combatants were on the battlefield. I didn’t think my life would be valued by my commanders. I didn’t want to die for something that years later was meaningless.
This intern has been with me, 20 hours a week, for a couple months now. She’s seen the gnarly stuff I do to find homeless veterans. She’s seen the crazy. She was present when I had to drive myself to the ER to get staples in my head.
When I said to her “You know me. You know I would have gone straight into combat. You know I wouldn’t do anything else.” She agreed.
Today, there was a broken man in front of me. Who didn’t stay in one place or open up to people because he didn’t want to be a burden. Who was literally shaking. Who had trouble making eye contact. Who is clearly a great guy, that a lot of people care about.
Processing this day, what I see are tradeoffs. I see that we are all presented with tradeoffs in life. Sometimes we’ll know the outcome, sometimes we won’t. When it comes to the really important stuff, most of the time we won’t know the outcome.
And often, you gotta give up good things, things you want, in order to keep going the way you’re going. Even when you don’t know where the way you’re going is going to get you.
I’m gonna keep going.