We’ve all had those moments where the world feels dark, and it seems as if our human race has been overrun with evil and stupidity and ignorance. Those moments that chip away at our faith in our own species, when we start thinking maybe this is all meaningless and no matter how many steps forward we take we’ll always take one more step backwards. I’ve been very fortunate to say that every single time I’ve fallen back into this abyss, someone comes along and restores my faith in the whole freaking world. Here are just a few, I’ll start with the strangers:
My second year of college I was driving a vehicle my friends and I affectionately referred to as the Party Cruiser. Unfortunately as much as we all loved her and as good as she was for hauling us from party to party, she was a Chrysler and had a plethora of maintenance issues. For one, she had a tendency of overheating, and being a broke college kid, I always went for the quick fix on this one instead of replacing whatever part would fix that–meaning even in the middle of the summer I’d roll down the windows and throw the heater on full blast until the little arrow came back down, then when I stopped I’d pour some coolant in the tank. One day I had done this pretty much every day for a week. It was already a tough week, work had been slow, I needed to buy some expensive books, and Biology and Latin were kicking my ass. Well I was driving around with the heater on feeling sorry for myself when all sorts of smoke started billowing up from the hood and a multitude of warning lights started blinking. Freaked out, I pulled over, willing myself not to break down and cry and I rested my head on the steering wheel and considered my options. My bout of self-pity was interrupted shortly by a knock on my car window, and I looked up to see a man and a tow-truck pulled up behind me. I rolled down my window, prepared to tell him I couldn’t afford his services. But a short conversation later and I was sitting in his truck as he towed me to his buddy’s place. He insisted he was already on his way and it was no inconvenience, but I assured him I couldn’t afford for his buddy to fix up my car the right way, I just needed some coolant. He said his buddy owed him a favor and could at least give me an opinion and a price. I drove out of the shop 3 hours later with a brand new thermostat and some other replaced car parts that I don’t even know. The tow truck driver refused to accept a penny from me or even give me any of his contact information. All he said was that I could thank him by someday helping someone when they needed it the most.
I encountered plenty of fascinating people and stories during the period in my life I sold timeshare, and there were many people who actually caused me to lose faith in humanity. But after a few bad days I would always encounter people like the couple with the craziest love story I ever heard, or people like this:
The elderly gentleman who pushed his wife into the meeting area in her wheelchair. She was completely immobile and didn’t speak a word, yet he treated her with absolute reverence. When he slid her chair up to the table he gently kissed her cheek and whispered into her ear. As I talked to him about his timeshare experience he shared memories of the two of them, looking over at her every few seconds and squeezing her hand with a smile. As soon as he felt comfortable, he confessed to me that his wife of 50 years had slipped a few years back in the shower. She was paralyzed from head to toe from the accident, even losing muscle function in her face that caused her speaking to be incomprehensible to most people. “Of course I can understand her,” he said, “but she’s embarrassed to try and speak in front of anyone else.” When her food came he ignored his own plate, immediately focusing on cutting up her food and feeding her. “Even though we can’t do everything the way we used to, I fall more in love with my wife every single day,” he told me, “I still have to pinch myself sometimes because I feel so lucky to have her.” Then came out the reason he had come to this meeting: “I made a promise to my wife,” he said, “and I’ve never broken it. I promised her we would watch the sunset on the beach every year, just the two of us. That’s why we bought the timeshare, and it’s been great for twenty years. But no matter who I talk to, they refuse to put an elevator in the resort. And I’ve done it for the past 4 years, but Elizabeth, I’m too old now. I can’t carry my wife up all those stairs any more. Our unit is on the fifth floor.” My heart broke wide open as he pleaded with me, with tears in his eyes, to help him keep his promise to his wife. Needless to say, I got them squared away with a new vacation package with plenty of handicap accessible resorts in that area, but they were one of those couples I wish I could’ve helped for free.
The lady who sat in front of me for an hour being a complete doormat for her husband, Every time she tried to speak he cut her off, he belittled her constantly during the conversation, he even insulted her fashion sense and said something about “the men always having to be the brains in the marriage”. After just 5 minutes I was thoroughly disgusted and about to give this guy a piece of my mind when she caught my eye and gave me a quick smile and shake of her head. When he eventually got up to go to the bathroom, she let it all spill; he had never acted like this until a few years back when his mother had passed away. “He just doesn’t know how to cope”, she told me. “He’s so full of grief and anger, I’m fine to just let him take it all out on me. I’m hoping this vacation you’re going to help us plan will finally help him find some happiness. But if not, that’s okay too. Because, remember this Elizabeth, no one is in charge of your happiness except you. People can walk all over you, insult you, take advantage of you. But you can allow none of that to hinder your joy, because ultimately none of it is your business. My husband might never be happy again, but if I stay faithful to him and continue to love him, I know I’ve done everything I can and that makes me happy. And hell, either way I finally get to go to Hawaii.”
And then the people who aren’t strangers:
My sister Mercadi, who one day during college when things were getting really bad with my ex and my insomnia, drove up from Austin, packed up my clothes despite my protests, and pushed me into the backseat of her car and drove me all the way to Houston to mom’s house. When we got there, I finally broke down, releasing months worth of pent-up anguish and when I was able to speak again all I could get out was, “How did you know?” “You’re my sister,” she replied, “I’ll always know.”
My Sifu, relatively early into my Kung Fu training. On this particular day I was feeling very stressed about money. I had just made a career transition, and I knew that I’d need to cut back on a few things because I wouldn’t be bringing in the income I’d become accustomed to for awhile. I voiced none of this, of course, but still somehow the topic of money came up. I think I had made some offhand comment about how he could’ve charged much more than he did for his services. I’ll never forget his face, so completely genuine as he looked at me and said, “But I am already so rich.” I must have looked confused, thinking maybe he chose to live modestly but had received a huge inheritance or something. “Look at everything I have. I could practice kung fu under a bridge, that can never be taken from me. But I have a house, a car…I can buy any little material thing I really want, and still have my kung fu. I am so rich, really.” Talk about putting things in perspective.
My fiancé, Chris. He constantly reminds me that I’m the most stubborn person he’s ever met, yet somehow he has an endless supply of patience when it comes to me. He loves the crazy side of me just as much as he loves the sane side, and I had never experienced that kind of acceptance until we found each other. I’m still not always sure I deserve it, but I sure am grateful.
And finally, my mom, every single day of my life, restores my faith in humanity. I could fill a thousand blog posts with only instances she’s amazed me but I’ll summarize with this: There’s no one in this world I’ve met more selfless than my mom. She will put anyone ahead of herself. Maybe a lot of people feel this way about their moms. But I truly believe she has positively impacted every person she’s ever spoken to, and when I finally grow up she’s exactly who I want to be. I think that the happiest day of my life is when she told me she and Yoly were getting married, because she’s finally found someone who’s perfect for her, who’s worthy of her, and who treats her like a queen. And now I don’t just have one amazing mom, I have two.
I’ve been blessed to have many amazing family members, friends and strangers who positively impact my life, and I couldn’t possibly put them all in this blog. But some of these instances came exactly when I needed them, and I love how the universe always has a way of picking us back up.
I’d love to hear feedback on a time someone has restored your faith in humanity.