【人間菩薩】~曹慶的故事

就在台北火車站後一棟老舊大樓裡,卻有一間寂靜的病房,這裡的病人不會哭、不會笑,更不會喊疼,他們在生命仍未結束之前,

提早關上了和世界握手的門,註定終生沈睡。他們有一個共同的名字「植物人」。

卡在生死之間的灰色地帶,植物人和家屬總有無窮悲苦磨難,然而,即使上帝開了一場殘酷的玩笑,還是派來了天使,一位七十歲的老人—曹慶。

他奉獻二十年心力安養植物人,成立創世社會福利基金會,陪伴四百多個沈睡的生命,在寧靜中,走過數千個黎明黃昏。曹慶和多數外省老先生一樣,有著顛沛流離的前半生;但虔信基督的他,曾在年輕時向天父許願:「要做別人不做的社會福利工作。」最後,他選定以植物人為奉獻對象。

民國六十九年,他從台糖退休,帶著退休金告別妻女,背著大背包,裡頭裝著幾十份北方乾糧「侉餅」開始「全省走透透」。逢人就問:「你知道哪裡有植物人嗎?」「我想從事植物人安養工作,你願意贊助嗎?」孤身獨行的曹慶用五年的時間,詢問了一萬多名陌生人,他被罵過「瘋子」、「騙子」,被人趕過、被狗咬過。最後,總算有七百多位善心人,在曹慶的「贊助人名單」留下了姓名和連絡地址。有了這份名單,曹慶開始實現自己向上帝許的願,他到處去拜訪貧困的植物人家庭。

在台北,他發現被棄置在幽暗、腐臭角落的植物人;在台中,他看到全身長滿褥瘡的植物人,傷口鑽出十多條又肥又大的蛆;還有一次在花蓮,他看到一個植物人瘦的只剩一把枯骨,躺在糞便與餿水中,讓曹慶再也忍不住溼了眼眶,誓言要為他們找回為一個「人」的尊嚴。曹慶同時到衛生部門「拜託」政府幫助清寒植物人家庭,也到企業財團去尋求財力支援,但執著的身影卻始終落寞,總在華麗卻冷漠的會客室裡被草草打發。只有一次,曹慶終於見到一位位高權重的大人物,但就在他滿懷希望的時候。「兄弟,我從不做沒把握的事!」曹慶回憶,那一剎那,他堅持多年的熱情徹底被擊潰,走出辦公室,站在亮晃晃的台北街頭,他揮著拳頭咆哮痛哭,詛咒全世界的無情無義,最後頹然倒在路邊緣像一個洩氣的皮球。

然後,他突然想起七歲那年在學堂裡讀過的故事「兩個和尚」:古時四川有一個窮和尚和一個富和尚都想到南海取經,富和尚因為擔心錢不夠、體力不夠和路途遙遠,一輩子未能成行,窮和尚卻只帶了一只缽,靠著雙腿和決心,數年之後帶回南海萬卷經書。一瞬間,曹慶笑了,告訴自己「就當個窮和尚吧!」。

不久之後,七十五年十一月,他租了房子成立創世紀植物人安養院,再親自到三重,從五樓背下創世免費收容的首位植物人林麗美,一個父親中風而母親癌症的年輕女孩;而那時創世沒有任何設施,林麗美的床還是路邊撿來的,舊櫥也是,曹慶自己則打地舖。

事隔十四年,曹慶還記得,正當安養院開張的前兩天,空蕩的房子裡什麼也沒有,幫他管錢的一位女孩拿著存摺,一臉驚惶衝向正在廚房洗地的曹慶大喊:「曹伯伯,不好了!你一百多萬元的退休金只剩下一萬!」。曹慶沒說什麼,只找出那張寫滿七百個姓名地址的贊助人名單,開始寫信:「還記得嗎?您曾承諾願意贊助植物人安養,現在,時候到了,您是否願意實踐諾言?」一封一封,全是曹慶虔誠熱切的親筆筆跡。七百多封信寄出後,奇蹟似的,小額捐款不斷寄來。一個月後,義工統計創世第一個月的支出合計十三萬元,而當月收到的捐款剛好是十三萬元,第二個月支出十八萬元,捐款收入就是十八萬元,第三個月支出廿三萬,捐款竟也是廿三萬元。多年執著播下的種子,從此開始萌芽。

但曹慶並未就此停手,早年因為缺乏人手和經費,他還身兼雜役和看護;林麗美入院的第一天,曹慶親自幫她洗澡處理穢物因為看護害怕「幫死人洗澡的感覺」)。為了治療植物人常見的褥瘡,曹慶更翻遍醫書土法煉鋼,先用棉花棒清除腐肉,把碘酒滴滿碗大的傷口,再拿吹風機對著傷口吹,讓碘酒快速滲入乾燥,那時病房裡就常見到曹慶拿著吹風機的身影,而一個個沈睡的植物人也在暖風中長出了肉,紅潤的雙頰。

十四年來,曹慶沒有向任何植物人家屬收過一毛錢,他只要求家屬每個月奉獻三天到安養院當義工,碰到不聞不問的家屬,他也多半算了。還曾有兩位植物人的年輕妻子,每個月帶著幼兒到創世,曹慶因不忍心他們埋葬後半生,便主動開具「丈夫終生無復原希望」的證明,建議她們離婚,由創世扛下未來的照顧責任,讓她們另覓伴侶,再也不必到病床邊垂淚相伴。

安養工作上了軌道,九年前,曹慶又開始關心街頭的流浪漢。

那時,六十多歲的他先到萬華街頭考察,白天陪著流浪漢遊蕩、翻垃圾桶,夜裡則在街頭拿硬紙板當床。八十年的除夕夜,曹慶更拜託十多位朋友自製便當捐給遊民當年夜飯,那夜當他帶著便當到萬華龍山寺前發放,親眼看到一位年近八十的老先生顫抖雙手拼命似地啃著雞腿時,曹慶又哭了,他當下決心要挑起照顧遊民的責任。

這些年來,創世天天為遊民發便當,提供生活日常品,農曆年前辦尾牙,並設立專為遊民服務的街友平安站。帶著植物人和遊民走過十多載的風雨艱辛,如今創世已從當年只有一張舊衣櫥當床的窘境,發展到在全台有六家安養院,收容過四百多位清寒植物人,並照顧五百多位遊民,近年又開辦失智老人收容、老人益智中心服務。更讓曹慶驕傲的是從當年的七百人開始,創世至今共收到三十一萬人次的捐款…而且每一筆錢全來自平凡的小老百姓,創世沒有向任何大財團拿過分毫。

曹慶呢?今年已七十多歲的他,頭髮全白,皺紋多了,但不變的是..即使頂著基金「董事長」的頭銜,他仍是穿著地攤買的布鞋,以及一件袖口磨破的舊夾克,夜裡就睡在病房樓上的小臥室,平時到醫院拿藥,為了省錢,更堅持要散步走去。曹慶的辦公室裡,還有一張簡陋凌亂的國畫工具檯,他最愛用棉花棒沾墨汁畫畫(當年為植物人塗碘酒治褥瘡後養成的習慣),畫好的作品裱框義賣換了錢,再給植物人添病床。奉獻對他來說,早已是生命的全部。

二十年前如此,二十年後亦然。春暖花開,但創世的植物人還在沈睡,如果你有機會拜訪創世的病房,不要忘記去看看牆角有一張保存完整、功成身退的舊衣櫥,還有董事長陳舊的辦公桌墊下,有一張泛黃的紙片,上頭寫著:「蜀之僻,有二僧,其一貧,其一富」。

認識創世:http://www.genesis.org.tw/about.php

True Spirit of Martial Arts

How would you have done differently in the same situation if you were a skilled martial artist?

 

A Kind Word Turneth Away Wrath

by Terry Dobson

 


The train clanked and rattled through the suburbs of Tokyo on a drowsy spring afternoon. Our car was comparatively empty – a few housewives with their kids in tow, some old folks going shopping. I gazed absently at the drab houses and dusty hedgerows.

At one station the doors opened, and suddenly the afternoon quiet was shattered by a man bellowing violent, incomprehensible curses. The man staggered into our car. He wore laborer's clothing, and he was big, drunk, and dirty. Screaming, he swung at a woman holding a baby. The blow sent her spinning into the laps of an elderly couple. It was a miracle that she was unharmed.

Terrified, the couple jumped up and scrambled toward the other end of the car. The laborer aimed a kick at the retreating back of the old woman but missed as she scuttled to safety. This so enraged the drunk that he grabbed the metal pole in the center of the car and tried to wrench it out of its stanchion. I could see that on of his hands was cut and bleeding. The train lurched ahead, the passengers frozen with fear. I stood up.

I was young then, some 20 years ago, and in pretty good shape. I'd been putting in a solid eight hours of Aikido training nearly every day for the past three years. I like to throw and grapple. I thought I was tough. Trouble was, my martial skill was untested in actual combat. As students of aikido, we were not allowed to fight.

"Aikido," my teacher had said again and again, "is the art of reconciliation. Whoever has the mind to fight has broken his connection with the universe. If you try to dominate people, you are already defeated. We study how to resolve conflict, not how to start it."

I listened to his words. I tried hard I even went so far as to cross the street to avoid the chimpira, the pinball punks who lounged around the train stations. My forbearance exalted me. I felt both tough and holy. In my heart, however, I wanted an absolutely legitimate opportunity whereby I might save the innocent by destroying the guilty.  This is it! I said to myself, getting to my feet. People are in danger and if I don't do something fast, they will probably get hurt.  Seeing me stand up, the drunk recognized a chance to focus his rage. "Aha!" He roared. "A foreigner! You need a lesson in Japanese manners!"

I held on lightly to the commuter strap overhead and gave him a slow look of disgust and dismissal. I planned to take this turkey apart, but he had to make the first move. I wanted him mad, so I pursed my lips and blew him an insolent kiss.

"All right! He hollered. "You're gonna get a lesson." He gathered himself for a rush at me.

A split second before he could move, someone shouted "Hey!" It was earsplitting. I remember the strangely joyous, lilting quality of it – as though you and a friend had been searching diligently for something, and he suddenly stumbled upon it. "Hey!"

I wheeled to my left; the drunk spun to his right. We both stared down at a little old Japanese man. He must have been well into his seventies, this tiny gentleman, sitting there immaculate in his kimono. He took no notice of me, but beamed delightedly at the laborer, as though he had a most important, most welcome secret to share.

"C'mere," the old man said in an easy vernacular, beckoning to the drunk. "C'mere and talk with me." He waved his hand lightly.

The big man followed, as if on a string. He planted his feet belligerently in front of the old gentleman, and roared above the clacking wheels, "Why the hell should I talk to you?" The drunk now had his back to me. If his elbow moved so much as a millimeter, I'd drop him in his socks.

The old man continued to beam at the laborer.

"What'cha been drinkin'?" he asked, his eyes sparkling with interest. "I been drinkin' sake," the laborer bellowed back, "and it's none of your business!" Flecks of spittle spattered the old man.

"Ok, that's wonderful," the old man said, "absolutely wonderful! You see, I love sake too. Every night, me and my wife (she's 76, you know), we warm up a little bottle of sake and take it out into the garden, and we sit on an old wooden bench. We watch the sun go down, and we look to see how our persimmon tree is doing. My great-grandfather planted that tree, and we worry about whether it will recover from those ice storms we had last winter. Our tree had done better than I expected, though especially when you consider the poor quality of the soil. It is gratifying to watch when we take our sake and go out to enjoy the evening – even when it rains!" He looked up at the laborer, eyes twinkling.

As he struggled to follow the old man's conversation, the drunk's face began to soften. His fists slowly unclenched. "Yeah," he said. "I love persimmons too" His voice trailed off.

"Yes," said the old man, smiling, "and I'm sure you have a wonderful wife."

"No," replied the laborer. "My wife died." Very gently, swaying with the motion of the train, the big man began to sob. "I don't got no wife, I don't got no home, I don't got no job. I am so ashamed of myself." Tears rolled down his cheeks; a spasm of despair rippled through his body.

Now it was my turn. Standing there in well-scrubbed youthful innocence, my make-this-world-safe-for-democracy righteousness, I suddenly felt dirtier than he was.

Then the train arrived at my stop. As the doors opened, I heard the old man cluck sympathetically. "My, my," he said, "that is a difficult predicament, indeed. Sit down here and tell me about it."

I turned my head for one last look. The laborer was sprawled on the seat, his head in the old man's lap. The old man was softly stroking the filthy, matted hair.

As the train pulled away, I sat down on a bench. What I had wanted to do with muscle had been accomplished with kind words. I had just seen aikido tried in combat, and the essence of it was love. I would have to practice the art with an entirely different spirit. It would be a long time before I could speak about the resolution of conflict.