To the Man A Floor Below

I have a story that I have oscillated about sharing for a couple weeks. But this story is something that I have grown and learned from tremendously. Hence, I think it may be important to record so I do not forget these lessons that have been on my heart.

After Church two Sundays ago, I walked downstairs into our lobby to head out for a run. There was a group of people surrounding a forty-something year old man who was sitting on the ground, back supported against the wall, barefooted, eyes closed, and head rolling. Immediately, those nurse instincts kicked in full force. Once I confirmed 911 had been called I sat next to the man and began a rapid assessment. He was conscious, AOx4, but had slurred speech and not able to keep his eyes open. He was showing signs of tardive dyskinesia. He told us the drugs he had just took and clearly was overdosing on benzos before our eyes. I was just praying the EMTs showed up with some Romazicon soon if he were to lose consciousness. I was itching to get a blood sugar, a pulse ox, an EKG… but all I could offer was my presence. I asked him about how he was feeling; he told me he didn’t want to live anymore and was afraid he was going to kill himself. He had come downstairs into the lobby to get help. When the people around me asked if I was a nurse and I confirmed, I noted the relief in their eyes. I felt I didn’t deserve this trust put in me, and suddenly realized the responsibility I had in this situation I had stumbled upon. Yet, the training and experience I had was nearly robotic. I now understand why they say nursing is a calling; it’s knit into the fabric of who you are at all times, on or off duty. I assured him we would stay with him until help came. I think it was what he wanted at this moment. He expressed such gratitude. Finally, the team came and he was off to the hospital in a flash.

Something that has loomed in my thoughts is the fact that he was a resident in our apartment- only one floor below us. I probably had rode the elevator with him before, I probably had passed him by the mailboxes or in the parking garage. Yet, I had no idea that there was someone only a floor below fighting for the will to survive. While I propped my feet up on the couch and turned on some silly reality show, someone a floor below was counting pills. “How many might it take?” he contemplated. While I counted the stressors in this year to come, someone below was counting if the stressors of his life were worth living another day.

It woke me up a bit- the reality that we don’t know what those around us are truly going through. It’s cliched, I realize, yet it carries a visceral weight. If we recognized that every single person we encounter is going through something, has a story, has a painful anecdote that formed them or is currently molding them would we all be kinder? Would we smile a bit more as we pass perfect strangers or look the cashier in the eye when we are checking out? I understand that we can’t solve everyone’s problems in this world, but what if we all lived more intentionally. Maybe taking our heads out of our phones and our eyes off our own lives for a second and simply asking, “How are you?” or “How was your day?” to the stranger next to us on the subway, the train, or in line at a grocery store can make all the difference. It’s simply saying to another human- “I see you, you matter, and you are not invisible” that can make or break a person’s day, their life. This man just wanted to be seen. He came downstairs and sat against a wall in the lobby because he knew he would be seen. How can we see the pain around us if we refuse to look up and see? I know we have heard this probably a hundred times, I’m not bringing any type of sage wisdom to the table, but for some reason for the first time this idea, this reality, hit home in a new way. The plague of our society is the acceptance of facade and the taboo of authenticity. Our interactions with one another may be short, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be meaningful. Our words may be few, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be powerful. Our own time may be precious, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be shared. I pray that Jesus will give me His eyes to see those around me the way He does, that he will give me the courage to ask the tough questions, the patience to listen, and the heart to love.

And to the man the floor below, I need you to know, you are loved more than you can imagine. You are worthy. You are the most valuable. There is One who sees you and knows you better than anyone ever could. There is someone who knows your pain so intimately, and He died for it so you don’t have to. There is someone who conquered the grave so you can live. You are never truly alone. I pray for you each day, and I pray that our paths cross again.