There were once two men, both seriously ill, in the same small room of a great hospital. Quite a small room, just large enough for the pair of them – two beds, two bedside lockers, a door opening on the hall, and one window looking out on the world.
One of the men, as part of his treatment, was allowed to sit up in bed for an hour in the afternoon, (something that had to do with draining the fluid from his lungs) and his bed was next to the window.
But the other man had to spend all his time flat on his back – and both of them had to be kept quiet and still. Which was the reason they were in the small room by themselves, and they were grateful for peace and privacy – none of the bustle and clatter and prying eyes of the general ward for them.
Of course, one of the disadvantages of their condition was that they weren’t allowed much to do: no reading, no radio, certainly no television – they just had to keep quiet and still, just the two of them.
They used to talk for hours and hours – about their wives, their children, their homes their former jobs, their hobbies, their childhood, what they did during the war, where they had been on vacations – all that sort of thing. Every afternoon, when the man in the bed next to the window was propped up for his hour, he would pass the time by describing what he could see outside. And the other man began to live for those hours.
The window apparently overlooked a park with a lake where there were ducks and swans, children throwing them bread and sailing model boats, and young lovers walking hand in hand beneath the trees. And there were flowers and stretches of grass and games of softball, people taking their ease in the sunshine, and right at the back, behind the fringe of the tress, a fine view of the city skyline.
The man on his back would listen to all of this, enjoying every minute how a child nearly fell into the lake, how beautiful the girls were in their summer dresses, and then an exciting ball game, or a boy playing with his puppy. It got to the place that he could almost see what was happening outside.
Then one fine afternoon, when there was some sort of parade, the thought struck him: Why should the man next to the window have all the pleasure of seeing what was going on? Why shouldn’t he get the chance?
He felt ashamed and tried not to think like that, but the more he tried, the worse he wanted to change. He’d do anything!
In a few days he had turned sour. He should be by the window. And he brooded and couldn’t sleep, and grew even more seriously ill – which none of the doctors understood.
One night, as he stared at the ceiling, the other man (the man next to the window) suddenly woke up coughing and choking, the fluid congesting in his lungs, his hands groping for the button that would bring the night nurse running. But the man continued to stare at the ceiling.
In the morning, the day nurse came in with water for their baths and found the other man dead. They took away his body, quietly, no fuss.
As soon as it seemed decent, the man asked if he could be moved to the bed next to the window. And they moved him, tucked him in, and made him quite comfortable, and left him alone to be quiet and still.
The minute they’d gone, he propped himself up on one elbow, painfully and laboriously, and looked out the window. It faced a blank wall.
Swindoll, Charles R. Growing Deep – Exploring the Roots of Our Faith, pp 48-49.
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