At Large

Envy

Pictures of unknowing health can have a disturbing effect.

By 6.1.07

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Over the Memorial Day holiday, I took the lazy way out for one dinner and ordered a couple of pizzas from our neighborhood Greek joint. Something happened to me there. It happens a lot lately.

A young man stood ahead of me in line. He was beautifully muscled, lanky, well-built, the very picture of health. His jeans rode low on his hips, and he wore a wife beater T-shirt with the emblem of a local landscaper on it.

And his body was covered with tattoos. Literally covered, every inch of his visible torso and all the rest, too, I should imagine.

It made me mad.

There I stood in a pizza line, barely able to keep my shoulders up, near fainting from low blood pressure and post-hospital weakness. I have no kidneys. I dialyze at home five times a day. I could not survive the application of a tattoo, let alone a torso full of them. Yet here stood a vivid young man with no apparent appreciation of what can go wrong with the human body, the very picture of careless abuse.

Why?

MAYBE I'M JUST A BITTER OLD MAN, peeved at my own fate. I was once a careless young man, too. I certainly never will be again. But I had to bite my lip not to say to that callow fellow, "Don't you know what you have? My Lord, man, you can pee. Show some respect for your body."

A couple of days after I got out of the hospital, I was sitting talking with my good friends Jim and Susan in the bosky pasture in front of their house. They told me that, while I was in the hospital, an all-too-typical thing happened. Two cars full of local teenagers were driving way too fast on one of our local roads -- just a plain straight road, no oddball turns.

They ran straight off the road into the brick wall of a local dentist's office. Two of them died.

"I went by there yesterday," Jim said, "and there's the usual 'shrine' made of teddy bears and flowers. But just think of the waste."

"All those kidneys," Susan said. "All those corneas, lungs, livers…"

Now I know that this is a sin. I just read a Bible verse that directly addresses how I feel:

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4 NIV)

I pray for forgiveness. But I do feel how I feel, and at times, I just can't help it.

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About the Author

Lawrence Henry writes every week from North Andover, Massachusetts.