Yesterday sitting on his living room floor, my cousin and I had a long conversation about what is important in life. We both came to the insight that what every human wants is to be loved and to belong.
I told him that when I was in Germany to visit my Papa in May, I had an experience that profoundly touched me. My father, whose left side is now paralyzed courtesy of stroke number 8 in 2017, almost choked during breakfast one day. Food got stuck to his dentures and he needed to be rushed to the hospital. There he shared the room with a young man who when I first saw him made me recoil, because his severely beaten up and bruised face was not even recognizable.
This man barely spoke any German (he was Hungarian as I found out later when he showed me his paperwork). In a bloodstained hospital gown, he rocked himself back and forth on the bed, whimpering and crying. I noticed an old teddy bear at the end of his bed. The once white teddy bear had a big red heart in the middle with the word love under it. I also noticed sheets of papers with drawings and the word love on them. As my father was struggling to eat his meal, this young man suddenly got up and offered the liquid food that he had been given. Even though he was in so much agony, he noticed that my father was struggling and offered his food.
Then he returned to his bed, took the teddy bear into his arms like a child and started to cry again. Still touched by his kindness and willingness to share, it hit me. What burned itself into my heart was the vulnerability, the loneliness, and all the pain embodied by this young man. He had no one to help and comfort him, yet he reached out to help somebody else. My first instinct was to crawl onto bed with him and hold him. Convention and the uptight German part of me prevented me from doing this. But before I left, I sat down on his bed and held his hand. For minutes we sat like this, in silence.
Later I found out that he had a broken jaw, was in a car accident and had no clue what was going to happen to him. Alone, scared, frightened, in a foreign country where he didn’t understand the language. If this young man can show kindness and compassion to another human being, why don’t we share it more freely? Why can’t we all be a little bit kinder and more selfless? That even when we are not even recognizable by pain anymore, we can still reach out to help another. What this young man so desperately wanted was to be loved. Instead he gave what he needed the most. What he taught me was love in action. As simple and as pure as it gets, no strings attached.