*Name has been changed to protect privacy
Last week I received an email message from a man living on the East Coast. It was the type of message that one has to read several times to grasp the full capacity of the words.
I felt the hairs on my arms stand on end at one point in the letter. But it wasn’t until a teardrop fell upon my hand that I realized these words were not simply meant for my eyes.
The author of this poignant email message graciously allowed me to write about his story.
I considered many angles on this particular post because there are many, many lessons to be learned from it. I typically have a clear message in mind before I begin writing each narrative. Most days, I have a Hands Free photo uploaded that I gaze at for inspiration. Usually I know exactly what I will be challenging my readers to think about. But today’s post is not like any other because today’s story is extraordinary.
Today, I have decided to go Hands Free. I am just simply going to write. For if there is anything I have learned through this journey, it is this: The most beautiful, life changing messages happen when you simply let them.
So let them…
Paul* was working on Wall Street on September 11, 2001. He evacuated his building in time to tragically witness the second plane hit the South Tower.
Although he was told to walk along the East-West Highway towards Midtown, he began running with a colleague. Through the chaotic screams and cries of survival, Paul felt compelled to glance back at the South Tower. He watched in disbelief and agony as hundreds of people jumped from windows.
After about ten minutes of running, he and his colleague saw a woman in her late sixties in tears and too tired to move. They each took one of her hands and assisted her as they walked about thirty blocks.
Paul and his colleague ended up staying in Penn Station for two nights with the woman they helped. They learned her name was Margaret and she was an executive assistant for a company in New Jersey. She just happened to be in the area on 9/11 because it was her day off and she was visiting friends.
Margaret ended up inviting Paul and his colleague to her home in New Jersey until Paul could finally call a cab and get back to his apartment.
After several months of upheaval and disruption, Paul’s life resumed.
So where is Paul now? Well, Paul is working as a highly successful investment banker in New York City. Yet, with the success comes a price.
Paul is expected to work six days a week, typically until nine o’clock at night.
His boss typically sends him a ridiculous number of email messages in a weekend and expects them to be answered. Paul has been told that his department needs to bring in $200 million dollars by March. This means Paul is to “crack the whip” on the people he manages. It is not uncommon for employees to not only miss family birthday celebrations, but even graduations and funerals.
Paul does not complain. He is grateful he has a job. He knew this is what he signed up to do. Although at times he feels like he can barely breathe, he accepts that this is the environment in which he lives and works.
But what Paul does not know is that he has found a way to bring light into darkness. He has found a way to bring air into a suffocating space. He has found a way to pick up those in despair and carry them, carry them to safety; the way he reached down and saved Margaret from an early death.
How? Read on. And read carefully…
Paul sent an email last week to his staff of forty people. He asked them to provide the dates of birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and any other special occasions that will occur in their families between now and June.
Paul cannot defy his boss by allowing his employees to work less than six days a week, but he can ensure that a particular individual does not work past four o’clock p.m. on the days of special family events.
In addition, his department is going to send flowers and/or chocolate to the family.
Paul’s email message had one last detail. On the upcoming Monday, he would be attending the funeral of a very special woman he met on 9/11. Her name was Margaret.
I wish I could have seen the faces of the people reading his email that day.
I wish I could see the face of the young man whose dad shows up to his high school graduation after having missed so many other momentous events.
I wish I could see the face of the woman when her husband comes through the door carrying flowers and says, “Happy Anniversary. I don’t want you to ever spend another one alone.”
I wish I could see the face of the young lady when her mom comes home early to help her dress for the prom.
I wish I could see the little boy’s face when his daddy surprises him for his birthday and says with tears in his eyes, “I am sorry I missed your last birthday, but I am here now, buddy. I am here now.”
I wish I could see the faces of Margaret’s family when the man who carried their precious beloved through the carnage and chaos of 9/11 walks through the door of the funeral home.
I will not see those faces, but I have a feeling I know what that moment will look like.
It will look like a single beam of sun that somehow manages to shine through the darkest blanket of menacing clouds.
It will look like an exquisite sea barnacle clinging to a tattered piece of soiled driftwood.
It will look like a tiny purple flower that somehow managed to sprout through a crack in the cruel asphalt.
It will look like one chance, one possibility, one miracle, one beautiful and unmistakable Sign of Hope.
You will often hear me say that I am simply a messenger on this Hands Free journey. It is by the grace of God and the grace of Paul that I have this message to give. The message that kept me awake night after night until it was written is this:
You may not work on Wall Street. You may not have an unscrupulous boss. You may not have had to run through the streets on 9/11, but every single one of us has a chance EACH and EVERY day to bring peace into the chaos and light into the darkness.
Every single one of us has a chance to put what really matters smack dab in the middle of the distraction that prevents us from truly living.
It only takes one light.
It only takes one hand.
It only takes one…
To Save A Life
It might even be your own.
As I mentioned before, today’s blog post kept me awake until it was written. It only needed one revision (I average five revisions per post). The initial word count was 1111. I am simply the messenger for something and someone far greater than myself. Help me spread this message by clicking “share” on the button below. It only takes one. Let it start with you.
Rachel, this is such a wonderful post. What an incredible person Paul is! I wrote this poem shortly after 9/11 and I would like to share it with you.
“Take my hand said the world-wearied man
Give me your hand and I will help you to stand”
“I can’t go on” said the woman in tears,
“You go on without me, I’ve lived out my years”
“Come with me now or together we die”
She reached out her hand and started to cry.
With his last bit of strength he pulled her from the crumbled towers
Carried her, though he had been working for hours.
After she was carried to safety she thanked him and said “you saved my life, you are a hero you know”
“Thank you ma’am” he replied
As he turned to go
For there were many more people to help that day.
He tipped his helmet and went back on his way.
Rachel Stafford says
Stunningly beautiful. Thank you, Talitha. You have a beautiful name & heart.
Rachel, Thank you so much for your lovely comment about my post and name! You inspire me to write, which I used to do as a teen but gave up. You are inspiring me to start my own blog and most of all, your blog and books are helping me so much as a mommy. You are helping me appreciate the simple things in life. Cannot wait for your new book! You are my angel!
IT is beautiful!
Thank you Rachel. You are our light!
Rachel Stafford says
Thank you, Tatyana!