To the Man in the Mental Institution

roses in mauve
photo by Sylvia

I thanked you when you paid me a compliment, but I’m not sure that I fully understood what that compliment would do to me until many days, if not weeks later.

It was a statement, made without explanation, without judgment or pity. It was just plainly, a nice thing to say. And you said it to me, a visiting stranger who was secretly a little afraid of you.

The peculiar and beautiful irony isn’t lost on me: a simple compliment from an unknown man (who happens to be a mental patient) came my way. It was so very basic and yet so very complicated.

I could tell this story in a humorous and self-deprecating context the next time I have dinner with friends, and they would all laugh and shake their heads at me. But I won’t, because I’m taking this experience to another place entirely. Just a small place of gratitude.

When I see you again, I will gladly talk to you, because you were kind and made me smile and you taught me a humble lesson that I will keep close to my tender heart forever.

30 thoughts on “To the Man in the Mental Institution”

  1. I have to tell you also – this totally takes me back to a situation that happened to me that affected me so profoundly quite a few years ago – a bit similar – and it has me feeling very retrospective – I feel I may want to write about it. Thank you for inspiring me – and for taking me back to that moment – and for touching me most every day with your thoughtful prose. Your photos are magnificent as are Wolfies :), but what they inspire you to write…….. that is what blows me away! ❤

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  2. Can I say it? I am proud of you. You chose to place fear and stereotype to the side long enough to see the miracle of human kindness, even in the midst of human brokenness. That takes courage and insight and, as you say, a tender heart, which will be changed forever.

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  3. I remember sitting in a food court watching a man walking towards me who had some physical challenges as he was helped by a carer. I smiled at him and he smiled back, saying “You have lovely eyes” I thanked him so much as it was a lovely exchange between two complete strangers.

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  4. You have a very beautiful website. I look forward to coming back and reading more. Please stop by mine and if you like, follow back.

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