|Patients in a hospital|
Now, Alf was not the sort of person I'd have sought out to be a friend. He was a rather "rough" sort of character both in speech and manner. Initially, I found him loud, immature, and irritating. He talked a lot and to anyone who happened to be around. He loved auto magazines and when he was well enough to get out of bed, he'd come over to my side of the room and sit on my bed showing me pictures of cars and trucks he liked and didn't like. Being bed-ridden, there was not much I could do except feign sleep or smile benignly. That I was not a motor enthusiast didn't deter Alf as he waxed lyrical about his favourite vehicles. This was his idea of cheering me up. I was not a willing patient.
As the days wore on, however, I began to learn more about Alf. He was in his mid-50s and had worked for the local council as a gravedigger for one thing, and also as one of its public gardeners. Not surprisingly, he loved to water the flower pots on the town's main street as it gave him the opportunity to talk to people. Everyone knew Alf.
Tragically, Alf had been seriously injured, a few months earlier. While he was standing in a freshly-dug grave, a co-worker accidentally backed up his digging machine, pushing a large gravestone and a ton of earth onto Alf, breaking his spine and causing him terrible internal injuries. It was uncertain whether or not he'd live. But after a series of major operations, Alf pulled through. He was registered disabled, and out of work. He lived in sheltered housing and required some care. I also discovered he had epilepsy and several other debilitating ailments and that his mother had recently died.
Yet, despite, these terrible setbacks to his life and health, Alf was one of the happiest people I've ever met. He loved the hospital, he loved the doctors and nurses, he even loved the hospital food. He loved telling jokes and kidding around with the nurses and anyone who came into our ward. Alf loved to laugh, long and loud. And towards the end of his hospital stay, he even applied to be a volunteer in the hospital canteen.
Experiencing Alf was a transformative act in itself. I grew to like him and credited him for helping me to recover from my own poor state. Alf's simplicity was just the antidote I needed to help me rise from my despondency. In fact, Alf became my friend and we have since met on a number of occasions to have a blether, for which I am always grateful.
In her book, The Wealthy Spirit, author Chellie Campbell writes, "Life presents us with many gifts--they're just not always the ones we think we're looking at. Remember to be grateful for your surprise packages."
Alf was my surprise package. What's your's?
* Due to confidentiality, I've changed some of the details of "Alf's" life. "Alf" is not my friend's real name.