This Easter, I’m remembering an old patient/mentor.
Mr. Sanders was a gentle, compassionate sage of a man. He religiously attended the 12-Step meetings and community acupuncture sessions at the rehab clinic where I first cut my teeth as an acupuncturist. He was respected by everyone and even seemed to have more authority than some of the counselors and staff of the clinic. He certainly could bring more order to an otherwise disorderly community acupuncture session. When Mr. Sanders entered the room the mood would simultaneously lighten and quiet. His smile reassured anyone who was fearful, and the seriousness with which he held his sobriety commanded silence. We loved him.
Occasionally, I had a one-on-one conversation with Mr. Sanders. I loved those chats, because guaranteed at some point during those 5 minutes, Mr. Sanders would drop some kind of wisdom that would help me feel inspired. In one of those conversations, he shared this with me:
“Something happened to me the other day. This woman I’ve known for years, long before I ever went clean, invited me to have Easter dinner with her family. Now, understand, I was a mean muthafucka when I was doped up. The only reason you wouldn’t be scared of me was if you was more doped out than me. I stole. I’d lie. I’d hurt you. I didn’t give a fuck. And this woman HATED me. I broke into her house. I stole from her. She knew not to fuck with me. Even after I went straight, she still hated, cause of everything I did and she thought that I’d just fuck up again. I was straight for years before she even talked to me. Then, the other day, she asks me if I want to come over to her house and have Easter dinner with her family! She asked ME?! The muthafucka who did all that shit to her. She asked me to Easter Dinner!? Do you know how that make me feel???”
I couldn’t answer him. I didn’t know how. As much as I had worked with the people at the clinic and heard their stories, I rarely had a comparable experience in my life to relate. As I stared back at him in amazement, it seemed that he himself couldn’t adequately answer his own question. He seemed to be looking through me, reliving everything in his life from his drug-filled criminal days to his drug-free rehabilitated life after. His eyes were filled with such joy and pain, remembrance and redemption.
“Life is strange,” he finally said. “You don’t know what can happen to you or what you’re capable of. I just thank God that I lived to see this day.” And with that he got up and walked into the community room to greet the other attendees and offer his hard-earned wisdom and compassion.
I learned many things during my time at the rehabilitation center, about acupuncture, about people, about life. Mr. Sanders would say, “God never gave up on me. So how can I ever give up on anyone else?” Through his experiences, Mr. Sanders found hope, for himself and for all people. For him, everyone was worthy of forgiveness, redemption and Love. Everyone deserved a second chance.
In this season of awakening and reawakening, know that inside you lives a light that only knows hope, and trust, and belief, and Love. It outshines any darkness and lifts any spirit. And the more you let that light out, the more lives you change.