The young father closed his son’s hospital room door and was immediately hit by a wave of guilt, but he kept walking towards the elevator. He had to get away from the pressure and fear. Their son had successfully come out of surgery to remove a benign brain tumor, but it was a delicate effort. His surgeons were uncertain about a complete recovery. Part of it would be up to the boy and it wasn’t looking good so far. His vitals were good, but he had not responded verbally in any way. Clearly, he was awake but not as responsive as the doctors had hoped. It was now over 24 hours since he came out of surgery and his parents were faced with the prospects of their son not coming back to them completely.
His dad walked out of the hospital front door, felt the crisp December air on his face and for just a second, felt better. With no direction in mind he walked a few blocks to Market Street, turned to his right, looked down the block and noticed an unexpected but familiar sight. It was the Phillie Phanatic working the crowd gathered around the Salvation Army bell ringer! They were huge Phillies fans and his son had been infatuated with the Phanatic since he was a little boy. What if he were to get the Phanatic to come to his son’s room? At the very least a visit from the Phanatic would lift his wife’s spirits. As he worked his way through the crowd he saw the Phanatic step into his van that was parked on the street. That is when he decided to knock on the van door and ask a favor from the big green guy. Maybe his walk would turn out to be worth it!
That day I was in a rotten mood. I was upset about my schedule being so full during the holidays. Off seasons had become as busy for me as the baseball season. This Salvation Army bell ringer stint was my 220th appearance of the year! I was thinking how difficult my job was: tired of sweating all the time, dealing with passionate, demanding fans and giving up all holidays and weekends. When I heard the knock on my van I had was just looking forward to a few minutes of peace. The knocking increased the frustration I was feeling. The Phanatic van was emblazoned with Phanatic and Phillies branding so going anywhere incognito was impossible. The incessant knocking and pounding during my breaks were regular irritants. Can’t they just leave me alone, I thought. Don’t they know it is hot in here! I decided to open the door to let this kid know I didn’t appreciate the disruption. When I slid the van door open I was surprised to see an adult peering back at me. He asked if he could come inside the van with me to talk. What? I couldn’t do that! I couldn’t let someone I didn’t know in the van and see the disembodied Phanatic! But his pained expression made me reconsider. He spoke to me with his head down, explained the situation with his son and the guilt he felt for leaving his wife alone, but now he believed he was meant to run into the Phanatic. He wanted the Phanatic to take the short walk to his son’s hospital room. It might be the perfect thing to surprise his wife and distract her. His son was a huge Phanatic fan ever since he was a toddler and who knew what that visit might due for him. “I know it is asking a lot but could you please come with me to my son’s room?” the young father asked. I paused for a second or two and blurted out…“Let’s go do it!”
As he reached for his son’s hospital door, he turned to me, put his finger up to his lips reminding the Phanatic to be cautious with his entrance. This was a mission with no permission. When the door opened my first glimpse was of his wife in the corner sitting with her head down. She raised her head to see the big green guy enter. Her face brightened, a broad smile broke out, she stood and then her hands went to her face and she mouthed the words Oh my god! She ran to the Phanatic on tippy toes and gave him a giant bear hug. I wasn’t sure if this would be good for their son but his mom’s embrace made me feel better. The nurse tending her son stepped back from the bed and motioned to the Phanatic to come closer. His eyes were closed and the bed was surrounded by blinking, beeping equipment with what seemed to be a spiderweb of tubes and wires all around him. As the Phanatic moved to his bed side and leaned forward with his furry nose the boy’s eyes opened and, in an instant, he exclaimed, “Hey it’s the Phanatic”. The room suddenly was filled with laughter, smiles and joy. His dad smacked the Phanatic on his back and said “How about that!” His mom hugged the Phanatic and said “Thank you! This is a miracle!”
As I was leaving all I heard was well wishes and thanks from the boy’s family, nurses and doctors. I kept thinking that I hadn’t done anything, I had just shown up as the Phanatic. But I couldn’t deny the pride and joy I was feeling. I was happy and disappointed at the same time: happy that I was blessed with the opportunity to be a super hero but disappointed in myself for not appreciating it.
Perspective is always there for us. We just have to slide the door open and welcome it in our lives. Be grateful for what you have and joyful for any opportunity to make those around you feel better and in turn, make you happier.
Remember we can all practice our way to happy!