You must look up to see

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 6, 2001

The last couple of weeks I've been reminded of the strength of the human character. We see every day examples of the weak and mean-spirited side of people all around the world.

We have but to tune in the evening news to be inundated by scene after scene of violence, avarice, greed and disrespect for human life. Most of what we see is far removed from our safe neighborhoods and smugly secure social circles. But then something will fall close to home and unsettle our complacency.

Sadly enough, we are seldom reminded of the other people…the ones who smile, uplift, assist. It's to those people I direct you.

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Recently on a sunny Saturday, I drove north out of Knoxville to Oneida, a town smaller than Greenville.The purpose was to become acquainted with Billy. He's in his mid 40's and is presently in a wheelchair but has no intention of staying there. In July he lost the lower portion of his right leg to diabetes. Already a heart patient, he now has another obstacle to overcome now. Billy has one son, age 17, who also is confined to a wheelchair. He was born with spina bifida and thus far has beaten the statistics by living well beyond the predicted seven to ten years. He's a bright, enthusiastic teen full of smiles and friendly banter. His mother died 13 years ago, and only a couple of years ago his dad married again. Of his new wife Billy says, "She's the really strong one around here. She has more faith than any of us." And these people, this family, which could so easily give in to the trials in their lives, persevere. Even though suffering medically induced loss of household income just now, they as often as they are able feed and clothe those close by who are without. And they are always ready to bolster the faith and hope of everyone they see. Billy does all this "…for the Lord. I don't need the acclaim of man."

Needless to say, I came away from meeting Billy refreshed, stronger and mightily humbled. And the strength I brought home that day was much needed this past week. My father is 81 and has lost his vision to macular degeneration. Last Wednesday he had surgery for cancer around his left eye and temple. Because we live in the age of cost-controlled medicine, his surgery was done in an outpatient center. He withstood three sessions of surgery as the surgeon sought a disease free level of tissue.

Finally, late in the afternoon he was sent home for the night. The next morning he had to report to another surgery center for final closure of the wound. We spent the night watching and hoping the surgeon's warning, "There is a strong possibility of sudden extreme bleeding that would require immediate hospitalization" would not occur. It did not. But during all this my Daddy never complained. He approached the whole thing with stoicism and a positive attitude. He made all of us see that the affected area was but a small section of the whole man. None of the discomfort, the uncertainty, the possibility of a poor outcome ever touched his spirit. His laughter, his jokes (old and new), his ready words of gratitude and appreciation to all involved never faltered. His strong faith and spirit never quavered.

He made me glad again that a part of him flows through me.

These last few days I've paid closer attention to the people around me. It's very easy to glance at them in passing and never really see them or look into their eyes. What a lot of life is missed by such carelessness and inward concentration. If we only take a moment to look we might see sources of strength and determination we need to carry forward each day. And if we're really lucky we might find the others, the ones who need a smile or a "hello", the ones whose spirits need uplifting.

This week when you go to the post office, or to Court Square for lunch, or over on the by-pass to see Miss Becky at Merle Norman's, or any of the places you happen to be, take time to look. You just might find that blessing you need, or even better the one you can give. But remember, if we don't look we'll never see.