Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room.
One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room's only window.
The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back. He was facing a very long recovery — if he survived at all — and was in low spirits.
The man by the window talked for hours on end. He spoke of his wife and family, his home, his job, where he had been on vacation, his involvement in the military service. But the other hardly ever replied.
There was only one thing that got through to the downcast patient. Every afternoon when the man by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his despondent roommate all the things he could see outside the window.
Though he didn't care much at first, the man in the other bed eventually began to live for those one-hour periods where he could forget about his condition. His life would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside.
The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color of the rainbow. Grand old trees graced the landscape, and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance. As the man by the window described all this in exquisite detail, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine the scene.
Days and weeks passed and the man's sullen mind-set softened as he allowed himself to appreciate life again despite his painful recovery. One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window. He had died in his sleep. She called the hospital attendants to take the body away, to his roommate's great sorrow.
Soon enough, the surviving patient, who was already doing a lot better, was offered the other man's spot near the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone. Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the world outside. Finally, he would have the joy of seeing it for himself. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed.
It faced a blank wall.
Flabbergasted, the man called the nurse back and asked what had happened to the beautiful view. When she told him the other half of the hospital had always blocked that window's view, he asked what could have compelled his deceased roommate to invent all those things he said he was seeing outside the window.
She responded, “Maybe he just wanted to cheer you up.”
There is tremendous joy in making others happy, despite our own situations. Shared grief is half the sorrow, but happiness, when shared, is doubled.
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