This is Ben. Ben is Awesome. Be like Ben.

Recovering from Brain Injury is often a lot of hurrying up, only to sit around a wait. We’re always on the go to doctors appointments, only to wait in their lobbies for an hour before seeing anyone. We’re always hurrying to advocate for therapy, only to wait around on approvals from insurance companies. Ever day I sit around and wait, while Patrick gets poked, prodded or rehabilitated.

As a result, I spend a lot of time in lobbies on the computer. I blog, research, write, and update our Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter accounts. In the process, I am subjected to a flood of whatever the latest trend is on social media. I see the parodies, the epic saga of the white/blue dress, the mash-ups, the quizzes, and the “everybody change your profile pic to show support of a cause” trends. Some are entertaining, but most are just annoying. However, few have annoyed me as much as the story of Bill, the stick-figure-hero, whom apparently, we should all emulate.

Have you met Bill? Have you heard of his greatness? If not, here’s Bill.

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Huzzah! Bill is the dude who doesn’t get offended, or caught up in pointless bickering with faceless strangers, who are bolstered by a confidence that only anonymity provides. But that’s not all that Bill can do!

Exhibit B

Apparently Bill is a music enthusiast, but also an equal opportunist for all genres of music! Great job, Bill! But hold up – how does he treat people? Isn’t that after all, what matters? (Stay with me here, because this whole post isn’t about Bill I promise you).

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Well there you go. Now we know! Bill is an all around winner. We should all be like Bill! Except for one teensy problem. Bill doesn’t exist. He’s just a meme that someone created, to indirectly chastise others into doing what they think is right. Annoying? You bet. So, I say screw Bill and his stupid, stick-figure-face. If you’re truly looking for someone to emulate, that actually exists – I have just the person in mind; someone who inspires me with his kindness and goodness every time I see him.

This is Ben. Ben is awesome. 

Did you ever meet a stranger who is so good, that you can almost see the light of God’s love glowing around them? That is Ben. He radiates goodness. Ben is the owner of our favorite local restaurant, Chaba Thai. He is from Thailand, which is nicknamed “the land of smiles,” and he is the poster boy for his homeland. He is never without a smile on his face, and is always greeting us with a gentle, quiet demeanor.

Long before Patrick’s accident, we frequented this restaurant because of it’s authentic Thai cuisine. We have many great memories here, dating back three years. We have “our table” and all that jazz, which is always given to us when we eat there. It’s pretty serious 🙂

When Patrick first got out of the hospital in 2014, one of the first places we came to eat together was Chaba Thai. I’d eaten there alone while Patrick was hospitalized, and had told Ben about what had happened to him. Still, when he saw Patrick, he began to well up with tears, and hugged him in the restaurant. From that day on, every time that we ate at Chaba Thai, Ben would bend over backwards to assist us.

I remember the first time we attempted to walk in, (much too soon mind you), and were struggling so much with it. Ben was very hands-on with Patrick, (which sort of took me back), in getting him in and out of his seat. After a visit to the bathroom, which had taken all his strength, we attempted to leave the restaurant, but Patrick’s legs were buckling. I couldn’t hold him up anymore, and I feared we’d both go down. Ben ran to us and supported Patrick with his weight to the door; then to the parking lot. Then, to the car. Then, he helped get Patrick into the car. I was so exhausted and upset over what had almost happened, but as I watched Ben buckle Patrick in, and then…grab a tissue from the dashboard and wipe his runny nose, a stillness came over me. He asked if Patrick was ok, and told him to feel better, said goodbye, and waved to us as we drove away. I can still remember his glowing smile, as it faded into the deep blue darkness of my rear-view window.

Over the months that have followed, Ben has become more than just a restaurant owner to us. He has become a dear friend. He rushes to the door to to greet us, and is always so excited to hear about Patrick’s progress. And even though Patrick doesn’t need his help anymore to walk, sit or stand, Ben is always there to make a fuss over his new accomplishments. Ben even gave Patrick a blessed buddhist bracelet of good fortune, which he’d gotten in his hometown in Thailand. Patrick was truly touched, and still keeps it in his nightstand.

The most beautiful thing about Ben, is that he transcends the concepts of friend and stranger. Never once has he treated Patrick, with what we here in the United States would consider an appropriate amount of space, for two strangers to share. Yet, there is something so disarming about unbridled kindness from a stranger. It has such a power to break down walls, and build bridges. Ben is a buddhist, and we are Catholics. But when we are together, there is such a reverence for what we see in each other; a head-nod to the divine that was breathed into all of us at birth. In sum, being around Ben is simply a lovely experience.

That’s the odd thing about Traumatic Brain Injury. Before Patrick was hurt, I never even noticed Ben. Patrick’s injury has connected me to so many wonderful people, and opened my eyes to the goodness in so many human hearts. Sure, we’ve come across some bad apples, but mostly I’ve been amazed by how people offer to help us in our day to day life; opening doors, assisting Patrick onto an elevator, helping us carry groceries. Patrick and I are also very affectionate in public, and sometimes I catch onlookers smiling at the sight of our love. I truly believe that Patrick’s TBI is bringing a lot of good into the world, and bringing a lot of good out of it as well, every single day.

So, if you want to emulate someone, might I recommend a flesh and blood human, living a simple life in South Jersey, and not a stick figure on the internet.
This is Ben.
Ben is awesome.
Let’s all be like Ben.

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