Beyond The Window


In 1968 many of the Veterans Hospitals were almost overflowing with the wounded from the Vietnam War.  It was not surprising then that many of the wounded soldiers were doubled up where ever space was available.  As luck would have it four of the most seriously wounded were placed in a room with only limited sunlight.  Each of them understood the problem and for the most part resolved to make the best of the situation.


Each of these men had seen terrible combat but were happy to be alive.  Unfortunately each of them were missing one or more arms and/or legs and they all knew it was going to be a long road toward recovery.  The first soldier put in the room was a young black man that was terribly wounded.  The orderly placed him near the single window that was unusually narrow.  It was only about 14" wide and extended from midway up the wall toward the ceiling. 


Within a few days the three other men had been wheeled in to join him.  Discussion was sparse for several days as the men had been sedated from their surgery.  Finally after a short discussion about where each of the men had been and how they had come to be where they were, one of the men ask the fellow nearest the window what he saw.  He paused for moment and then said, "Well, it's raining and it has been for the last several days.  I don't know if it's ever going to clear up.  I can see a park and a water fountain and a sidewalk in the park but there's no people."


"Ok, well you just keep watching that park and tell us what happens."


It wasn't long before one day led to the next.  Spending day after day in a hospital bed for these young men became extremely boring.  Red Cross personnel would come by occasionally and provide magazines and chewing gum.  One of the fellows tried to smile about the chewing gum because his jaw was wired closed and another asked for one of the men to read to him because he had lost his sight.  For the most part they tried to help each other get through these most difficult times.


One morning after each of the men had awakened, the fellow near the window said, "My gosh, what a beautiful morning.  The birds are in the trees and the park is filled with people.  There's a young lady pushing a baby carriage.  I wonder where she's going?"


For the next hour or so the men postulated where the woman was going, what the name of the baby was, and whether that was her only child.  For this came a discussion about their own lives and what they were looking forward to when they got out of the hospital.


Before long it was lunch and then time for the doctor and interns to visit.  They stayed only a short time and soon the man at the window was telling about the old couple he saw that were holding hands as they walked through the park.  "My parents are like that”, one of the other men said.  "They're as much in love now as when they were first married thirty years ago.  He still makes her a Valentine and never forgets her birthday or anniversary."


"Mine's just the opposite," another fellow said.  "But my mom knows that he loves her.  He just doesn't know how to show her."


After a couple of weeks the doctor came in and sat down next to each of the men individually and talked about their recovery.  He was positive of the progress that three of the men had made.  But he was much less optimistic about the man near the window.  In fact the man near the window seemed to be eating less and losing weight.  As time went on the hospital staff spent more and more time with the fellow at the window but he continued to grow weaker.  When he was awake he'd talk about the weather and what he saw in the park but wouldn't join in with the discussions.  It seemed like his whole reason for living was to report on what he saw outside the window.


It was not surprising to the hospital staff the morning they came into the room and found that the man near the window had passed away during the night.  There was little said that day in the room.  Each of the men tried to busy themselves with things to keep them going but each thought about the man near the window.  Finally the next day the man that was not blinded and didn't have his jaw wired shut asked to be moved near the window.  Soon an orderly moved him.


After he was moved he spent most of his time reading.  "What do you see," the blind man asked?


"Oh not much."


"What the hell are you talking about?  Who's in the park?  What's happening?"


"Oh not much."


It was not long before the sadness of the three men turned toward resentment.  The two away from the window refused to beg the man at the window to tell what he saw and the man at the window fell silent.  Each day slowly moved past.  Several days went by when no one in the room spoke unless a nurse, doctor, or orderly came into the room.  When the doctor came back several days later he was surprised to see that each of the men had started to slip backward.  They weren't doing anywhere as good as before.  The doctor tried to find out what the problem was but very little was said.


The health of the three men continued to decline.  One day the man near the window had to be taken to another part of the hospital for some x-rays.  While he was away an orderly came in.  The blind man said, "Hey buddy, would you do me a favor?"


"Sure, if I can."


"Tell us what's happening down in the park."


"What do you mean?" the orderly asked.


"I mean look out the window and tell us what the day is like and what's happening down in the park."


"Well I'll be happy to look out the window, but the only thing there is a brick wall."




"Yeah, no matter how I look all I see is a brick wall.  Where'd you get the idea there was a park out there?  There's not a park within several blocks of here."


"Oh, ah... Thanks.  That's all."


When the fellow was returned to the room the blind man said, "Why didn't you tell us there wasn't a park?"


"I couldn't.  Not after what had happened.  I was really disappointed and knew I could never keep the story going."


"Well damn it, count the bricks and tell us a story for every brick you can see."


"Ok, but it wouldn't be as good as the people in the park."  


(Adapted from a portion of a sermon on Easter Morning in the 1990’s.)