“Joe the Prophet,” Jan. 1, 2019

Who are the prophets in your life, the people who remind you to be true to what you believe and practice what you preach?

Just before Christmas, my brother took a bad fall, hit the floor hard and couldn’t get up.
Joe lives alone, having lost his wife to cancer years ago. Totally blind and severely impaired by cerebral palsy, he wasn’t sure how badly he was hurt. So he tried to stand, and fell again.

Given a choice, Joe would rather eat glass than ask for help. But he swallowed his pride and started yelling. Luckily, a neighbor heard him and called 911. And that’s how my brother ended up spending Christmas in a hospital with a broken ankle.

I learned this from Bobbie, our sister, who lives 30 miles from Joe in South Carolina. I live in California, thousands of miles and three time zones away.

Long ago, after our mother died, Bobbie became Joe’s backup, the first person he’d call with good news or bad. She’d drive him to appointments, take him out to eat and make sure he spent holidays at her house. But lately she’s had health issues that make it hard for her to drive. So their visits are limited to phone calls.

“It hurts me that I can’t go see him,” she said, “but we still talk on the phone most every day.”

She gave me his room number and I called it. No answer. I kept trying for three days. Finally, I called the nurse’s station.

“Maybe he can’t reach the phone,” said a kind Southern voice. “I’ll go hand it to him.”

Seconds later, I heard a click and then, “Hey, Sister! I wanted to call you, but I can’t call long distance on this phone!”

Joe gave me the full report on his ankle: “Yep, it’s broke.”

“Does it hurt?”

“Not much.”

“Can you walk?”

“Not really.”

“How long will you be there?”

“I don’t know. They plan to move me to a rehab place to get some therapy to help me walk.”

Then I asked the big question: “Can you get the game on TV?”

Clemson was set to play in the Cotton Bowl. Joe is a huge fan.

“Yes!” he said. “I can’t wait!”

Never mind that his ankle is broken and he may never walk again and he might need to move to assisted living …. All the fears that clutched at my heart were surely clutching at his heart, too. But he chose instead to count his blessings.

“This is a nice place,” he said. “It’s not home, but it’s nice. I like the food and there’s plenty of it. And the nurses and other people here are really good to me. I just thank the good Lord for looking out for me. That fall could’ve been a lot worse.”

The last time Joe was in a hospital, he was 7 years old, recovering from surgery on his legs that doctors hoped would help him walk. His nurse told my mother, “Some of the kids in here cry all night, but not Joe. He just sings “Love Lifted Me” at the top of his lungs until he gets tired and falls asleep.”

For a moment, I closed my eyes and pictured a little boy, totally blind, lying in a hospital bed with casts on both his legs, belting out a song about love.

“Are you still there, Sister?”

“I’m here,” I said. “Do you still sing yourself to sleep?”

Joe laughed. “Sometimes,” he said, “not every night.”

My brother is a prophet. He takes each loss, each heartache, each disappointment that life brings, and holds it up in total darkness to see the light and grace and love of God.

He makes me see it, too, even if I try to look away. He shows me by his example that I have the power to choose gratitude instead of self-pity; kindness instead of indifference; hope instead of fear and despair.

We all need a prophet once in a while. You’re welcome to use mine any time. If you can get him to pick up the phone.

 

Comments

  1. Jp says:

    I was happy when Clemson won because I knew Joe would be happy.

  2. Karen says:

    Dear Sharon,
    This is probably my fourth time to reach out to you and thank you for what you’ve written. I hope you’ve gotten all my others, although I’m not sure. The main thing is you’ve really “smacked me upside the head” again. You’re really on to something with this gratitude over self pity thing. Again. And it always comes around the first of the year. Thanks Coach! I needed that!
    With love,
    Karen
    Florence, AL
    PS. Please give Joe a “phone hug” for me and tell him I said “GO TIGERS!” tomorrow night. know. I’m from Alabama. I’m not supposed to root for Clemson. But hey, Tigers are Tigers! War Eagle!!!

  3. Jim and Denise Martin says:

    Thank you for sharing this story about Joe and YOU….

  4. Antoinette Cox says:

    We all need a Joe in our life to remind us of how blessed we are and how much we have to be thankful for. When I lived in Carmel I always read your wonderful columns. Loved them all. When I wrote to you, you always answered. Somehow I lost track of your uplifting column so having a friend send me this one on Joe was a treat. Thank you. Happy New Year! What a gift you are to the world so I say “Thank you, God, for Sharon”.

  5. Pat Smith says:

    Hi Sharon, thank God for how He meets our needs…..for meeting Joes, Bobbies,yours, mine, and and otherswho depend on Him.
    You know me,my daughter Leigh
    and my sister Becky from Bristol, Va.
    I thought about you at Christmastime and your column in 2004 about Leigh contacting you to help her with her Christmas gift to me that year.You made it special for her and her Mom.
    Thank you, Sharon.
    I pray Gods grace and peace for you and all your family and for His blessings for how you use the gift of writing that He has given you and the gift of sharing His love with others, in Jesus’ Name.
    Love, Pat.
    P.S. Could it be time for a return visit to Bristol?

  6. Amanda says:

    This Auburn fan is thinking of Joe, and rooting for him and Clemson both!

  7. Leo says:

    God bless Joe, the prophet for us all. Happy new year to you all.
    —Leo, a Chinese reader

  8. Kate Sciacca says:

    I was wondering how St. Joe of South Carolina was doing! I was thrilled to see Clemson torch Notre Dame…. looking forward the the annual Bama – Clemson game. A blessed and happy 2019 to you and yours… we head your way on Wednesday- maybe I will see you @ Rosines 🙂

  9. Mitzi Shannon says:

    He is a true inspiration. We all can learn something from Joe. I hope he can recover to walk again and return to his home.

  10. Sarah Webster says:

    This is so touching. I’m sure Joe is a blessing to everyone he meets. I hope Clemson wins/won. Good wishes to Joe and Happy New Year to you and yours!

  11. Susan Walker says:

    We all need more “Joe the Prophet” in our lives. Thanks for the reminder!

  12. Cheryl gregory says:

    Well I hope his team wins the cotton bowl just for him. Joe knows that a merry heart is better than medicine. He’s an inspiration to us all!

  13. Austin Keane Hendershott says:

    Happy New Sharon Randall!

    For years I read your column in The Salina Journal, Salina Kansas.
    I moved away some years ago, and lost track of you. But I have since found you on the WEB and enjoy “your slice of life” column.

    Best wishes

  14. Susan Costanzo says:

    I just love your stories. You remind me to be grateful. Even when it seems there isn’t a lot to be grateful for. Truly a gift.

  15. R Hancock says:

    What on inspiration! Joe, bless his heart, is amazing!

    Reading your column today is just what I needed to end one year & look toward a new one.

    I thank God for his words & yours. It’s all about choices, & we get the opportunity every day!

    Happy New Year!

  16. Dick Daniel says:

    Wow. Love this. I’ll try to remember this when I start feeling sorry for myself.

  17. Betty McNall says:

    He has an outlook on life, we all need to be aware of in ouselves, that we do not look for in ourselves! I’ve seen and heard that hearing and sight impared people often have these qualities we do not think about. Bless you and your family in 2019!

  18. Vickie Garrison says:

    Thank you for sharing your brother with all of us. He is a smile for each of us. Your stories about him make my day brighter and certainly cause me to be more thankful.

  19. Sheri says:

    Just what I needed today. I’m coming upon a hurdle in my life that I need to overcome.

  20. Nancy says:

    Prayers for a good recovery for Joe!!🙏🏻🙏🏻
    Happy New Year!!!!

  21. Patricia says:

    For a while I have been wishing Joe could go to a Clemson game! I pray his ankle heals and he can walk again!

  22. Sabrina Adkins says:

    Your writings make me so happy! Joe is a absolute inspiration. May we all see life through his eyes and heart!

  23. Carol Toothman says:

    What a beautiful story. We all wish we could have his spirit! I love all of your stories but I think I love this one the most..

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