The Mighty Logo

When 2 Men at the Imaging Center Reminded Me of an Important Lesson in Kindness

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Yesterday my husband and I went to an imaging center, as he needed a CT scan for a recurring issue. We filled out forms, and 20 minutes later the nurse called my husband in. She said I should come too. She led us to a small room, which accommodates six people. Two patients were there, waiting for their tests.

The younger man (I’ll call him John), was in his late 30s. He wore shorts and a tank top, his legs covered with tattoos. The older man (I’ll call him Bill), was in his late 50s. He was dressed in a hospital gown. I got the feeling they didn’t want to talk and preferred to keep to themselves. It felt crowded, and I wished I could go back to the spacious lobby. But I settled in and hoped we wouldn’t have to wait too long.

Something unexpected happened.

Bill started to ask John questions about why he was there. It turns out they both have severe back problems and both have a hard time walking. John has had multiple back surgeries over the past 10 years. He said he rarely goes anywhere, that it was difficult to get there for his scan. John told us the best thing he never did was to get married and have kids. He said it’s better that way because he couldn’t have taken care of a family. He’s alone with all that pain.

Bill said he drives and gets around OK. But he hurts a lot and can’t golf or play baseball, which he used to love. It was a strange coincidence when both men realized the sport they miss the most is boxing. They sounded defeated, knowing they would never be able to
box again.

As they compared stories and explained how poor their quality of life is, my husband and I looked at each other and thought the same thing. Wow. We never would’ve guessed these
men were in such challenging situations. Their back injuries severely limit them.

John got called for his scan. My husband and I continued to talk with Bill and found out he has a cat he takes everywhere. The nurses were watching him at the front desk. The cat is an emotional support animal. We talked about our families, laughed a little and got out our phones to show each other pictures of our dogs.

As I listened and talked with Bill and John, I thought about how kindness comes in different forms. Like sympathy. Generosity. And empathy. The definition of empathy is the understanding of and the identification of another’s feelings.

That’s how I can best describe what I was feeling in that tiny waiting room. Empathy. We connected. In that brief time, and in an unlikely place, Bill and John touched my life. They reminded me to be kind. People we meet are fighting a battle, one we may not ever know about.

I’ll continue to think of those two men I met in the waiting room that day. I’ll pray they get relief from their pain and that they’ll experience more happiness. They’ll never know how much of an impact they made in my life.

The Mighty is asking the following: Share with us an unexpected act of kindness, big or small, that you’ve experienced or witnessed in an everyday place. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


Originally published: June 3, 2016
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home