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"My Best according to me: (aka my personal favorites)"
MICHAEL J. SOLENDER
From the corner of his eye Arne Carlson could just see tiny snippets of life unfolding outside of his hospice window. Young children were playing ball at the park adjacent to the property and several moms gathered around strollers with pony tails bobbing were sharing animated conversation. Arne let his mind drift to those simple pleasures he had once enjoyed.
His voice, struck silent from the last stroke three weeks ago, was unable to ask the attendant to turn his head further so he could drink in what would surely be his final views of what was an unremarkable, but immanently satisfying life.
At 93, Arne had outlived his wife of 57 years and most of his friends. Childless, Arne had planned for his care and final arrangements long before this day had arrived. He was relieved that he was comfortable in his final days and had reflected these past few weeks on the impact that he had made on others throughout his lifetime.
Had he made his mark in the world? Had he tried hard enough to make the world a better place? Without children would anyone even remember him? These thoughts churned like a chugging locomotive in his mind as he allowed himself to drift into half sleep, half daydream.
He knew what time remained would be measured in days, not weeks, so in spite of the prison his body had become, he made the most of his time challenging his past efforts as he took in the view the window was affording him.
He hoped he had made a difference in others lives. The golden rule meant something to Arne Carlson. He prided himself in demonstrating patience, tolerance and respect for friends, family, and strangers alike.
He was not a big dreamer, nor did he have outlandish aspirations. A modest life, a wife to shower with affection, good friends, some travel, good books and a comfortable retirement were all Arne ever wanted for and he was rewarded with just such an existence.
His legacy, he mused, would be a silent one, experienced a thousand times over throughout the course of his lifetime.
Arne Carlson was an unassuming, decent man who found pleasure in extending the smallest courtesies to others. An anachronism in the hurried life of the era in which he lived, Arne always took an extra moment to hold a door, give back the extra change received in error, let a car into traffic, help a child who was momentarily lost in a department store.
Life was a series of small transactions thought Arne; why not make them as pleasant as possible? So many daily inconveniences face us all: Who among us hasn’t been cut off in traffic? Been hung up on by dialers of wrong numbers? Provided with erroneous directions?
These tiny indignities face us all with growing frequency, and by Arne Carlson’s observation, growing annoyance, intolerance and aggravation.
Carlson decided at a very young age that he was not going to allow himself to be consumed by these societal infractions. He would always take the high road, always do the right and decent thing for his fellow man.
It was a learned discipline. Taking a few extra moments each day may have made him a minute or two late on occasion, or allowed someone to gain access to a better seat at a the movie theatre. These were small compromises in maintaining integrity, thought Carlson.
He relished these random acts of kindness. It was never a burden for him, rather it was a pleasure. He grew to view each opportunity as an obligation to make his fellow man’s experience on this earth just a tiny bit more tolerable, if not pleasant.
As he lay on his back, propped up on a pillow, Carlson grimaced and half wondered if his little social experiment had really made a difference for anyone but himself. He drifted off to sleep.
When he awoke, he was in a wheelchair in a narrow hallway facing two elevator doors about 200 ft. ahead of him. Each door was open and he could tell, even from a distance, each car was quite full.
He was able to hear, faintly, his name being called, he was being beckoned to each open elevator door. He began to wheel himself quickly towards the end of the hallway. As his pace quickened he could see the doors simultaneously begin to close. He accelerated his pace, urgently recognizing that he needed to be on one of those cars, he began to wheel as fast as he could given his tired and bent arms.
Just as he reached the closing doors, he found the door on the left had swiftly closed completely, shutting him out; the door on the right however had been kept open by the hand of someone unseen inside the elevator. Carlson just snuck in and the door gently closed behind him.
“We’re waiting for you.” Several voices said in unison.
Carlson looked around and saw that he was in the largest elevator he had ever seen, there had to be literally hundreds of people in there. He knew he was dreaming…he thought he was dreaming..Was he dreaming??
Everyone in the elevator car was beaming, each smiling wide, each looking directly at him. Carlson rubbed his eyes in disbelief for a moment as he looked around.
These people were strangers to him, yet they all seemed so familiar in some way. Who were these people? There had to be a mistake!
“Mr. Carlson, my name is Marcy.” A young girl of about 10 reached for his hand. “You rode with me on the subway in New York City last year when my brother and I became separated. “You called my daddy when I told you his number and took me to his office in midtown, missing your dental appointment.”
Carlson remembered, it was not such a big thing, a few stops and a call on his cell phone. He was impressed the girl had the presence of mind to stay calm and knew her fathers number. Anyone would have done the same thing.
“Mr. Carlson?” A brunette of about forty in a stylish suit reached out and touched his shoulder. “You reached up to the top shelf at the grocery and reached a can of soup for me a few years back. I was having such a crummy day and the fact that you simply stopped, and offered a hand made me smile and see there were good, decent people in this world.”
Carlson blushed. What a small thing he had offered his assistance thousands of times, why was this worthy of special recognition?
“Mr. Carlson, my name is Harris; I work at the Dry Cleaners you frequent.” I mistakenly gave you a ten dollar bill one day instead of a one, and you pointed out my error and gave it back. You may not know it but, your act of kindness saved my job.”
And on it went. Person after person, small kindness after small kindness, each shared their remembered small kindness with the man who had extended it.
Carlson’ heart began to swell with pride. He had made a difference, small things do bring pleasure into people’s life, the effort, joy really, was worth extending. He was sated.
Arne Carlson passed quietly and without pain that September day, his heart full and his soul light. His deeds on earth had earned him an express elevator ride up to the very top floor.
(c) 2009 ~ Author Michael J Solender
Originally published as a "most read" at Stories That Lift
The hits just keep comin' folks. Since Michael couldn't hold his *Best* down to just two, Read*On ... Sure seems we've got a Double-Double Feature in progress, as we wish Michael and The NOT our very Best.
and the staff of renown, * AT THE BIJOU *
The world can always use a few more Arne Carlsons Michael! A great story with a message that bears repeating.
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