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14级台阶 Fourteen Steps

编者按:

我现在不仅每天爬14级台阶, 还尽量给人一些小小的帮助。或许有一天, 我会给一个坐在车里像我一样在心灵上有盲点的人换轮胎。

Fourteen Steps

They say a cat has nine lives, and I am inclined1) to think that possible since I am now living my third life and I’m not even a cat. My first life began on a clear, cold day in November 1904, when I arrived as the sixth of eight children of a farming family. My father died when I was15, and we had a hard struggle to make a living. As the children grew up, they married, leaving only one sister and myself to support and care for Mother, who became paralyzed2) in her last years and died while still in her 60s. My sister married soon after, and I followed her example within the year.

This was when I began to enjoy my first life. I was very happy, in excellent health, and quite a good athlete. My wife and I became the parents of two lovely girls. I had a good job in San Jose and a beautiful home up the peninsula3) in San Carlos. Life was a pleasant dream. Then the dream ended. I became afflicted with a slowly progressive disease of the motor nerves, affecting first my right arm and leg, and then my other side. Thus began my second life. . .

In spite of my disease I still drove to and from work each day, with the aid of special equipment installed in my car. And I managed to keep my health and optimism, to a degree, because of 14 steps.

Crazy?Not at all. Our home was a split-level affair with 14steps leading up from the garage4) to the kitchen door. Those steps were a gauge5) of life. They were my yardstick, my challenge to continue living. I felt that if the day arrived when I was unable to lift one foot up one step and then drag the other painfully after it――repeating the process 14times until, utterly spent, I would be through――I could then admit defeat and lie down and die. So I kept on working, kept on climbing those steps. And time passed. The girls went to college and were happily married, and my wife and I were alone in our beautiful home with the 14 steps.

You might think that here walked a man of courage and strength. Not so. Here hobbled a bitterly disillusioned cripple, a man who held on to his sanity and his wife and his home and his job because of 14miserable steps leading up to the back door from his garage. As I became older, I became more disillusioned6) and frustrated.

Then on a dark night in August, 1971, I began my third life. It was raining when I started home that night;gusty winds and slashing rain beat down on the car as I drove slowly down one of the less-traveled roads. Suddenly the steering wheel jerked in my hands and the car swerved violently to the right. In the same instant I heard the dreaded bang of a blowout. I fought the car to stop on the rain-slick shoulder of the road and sat there as the enormity of the situation swept over me. It was impossible for me to change that tire.Utterly impossible.A thought that a passing motorist might stop was dismissed at once. Why should anyone?I knew I wouldn’t. Then I remembered that a short distance up a little side road was a house. I started the engine and thumped slowly along, keeping well over on the shoulder until I came to the dirt road, where I turned in–thankfully. Lighted windows welcomed me to the house and I pulled into the driveway and honked7) the horn.

The door opened and a little girl stood there, peering at me. I rolled down the window and called out that I had a flat and needed someone to change it for me because I had a crutch and couldn’t do it myself. She went into the house and a moment later came out bundled in raincoat and hat, followed by a man who called a cheerful greeting. I sat there comfortable and dry, and felt a bit sorry for the man and the little girl working so hard in the storm. Well, I would pay them for it. The rain seemed to be slackening a bit now, and I rolled down the window all the way to watch. It seemed to me that they were awfully slow and I was beginning to become impatient. I heard the clank of metal from the back of the car and the little girl’s voice came clearly to me. “Here’s the jack-handle, Grandpa. ”She was answered by the murmur of the man’s lower voice and the slow tilting of the car as it was jacked up. There followed a long interval of noises, jolts and low conversation from t he back of the car, but finally it was done. I felt the car bump as the jack was removed, and I heard the slam of the truck lid, and then they were standing at my car window.

He was an old man, stooped and frail-looking under his slicker. The little girl was about eight or ten, I judged, with a merry face and a wide smile as she looked up at me. He said, “This a bad night for car trouble, but you’re all set now. ”“Thanks, ”I said. “How much do I owe you?”He shook his head. “Nothing. Cynthia told me you were a cripple–on crutches8). Glad to be of help. I know you’d do the same for me. There’s no charge, friend. ”I held out a five-dollar bill. “No.I like to pay my way. ”He made no effort to take it and the little girl stepped closer to the window and said quietly, “Grandpa can’t see it. ”

In the next few frozen seconds the shame and horror of that moment penetrated and I was sick with an intensity I had never felt before. A blind man and a child.Fumbling, feeling with cold, wet fingers for bolts and tools in the dark–a darkness that for him would probably never end until death. I don’t remember how long I sat there after they said good night and left me, but it was long enough for me to search deep with in myself and find some disturbing traits9). I realized t hat I was filled to over-flowing with self-pity, selfishness, indifference to the needs of others and thoughtlessness. I sat there and said a prayer.

“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them:for this is the law and the prophets. ”To me now, months later, this scriptural10) admonition is more than just a passage in the Bible. It is a way of life, one that I am trying to follow. It isn’t always easy. Sometimes it is frustrating, sometimes expensive in both time and money, but the value is there. I am trying now not only to climb 14steps each day, but in my small way to help others. Someday, perhaps, I will change a tire for a blind man in a car――someone as blind as I had been.

by Hal Manwaring

14级台阶

人们说猫有9条命, 我倾向于认为这是可能的, 因为我现在活的是第三次生命, 而我不是猫。1904年11月的一个晴朗、寒冷的日子, 我开始了我的第一次生命。我成了一个务农家庭8个孩子中的第6个。我15岁时父亲去世, 我们全家都得为生计艰辛奔忙。孩子们长大后, 一个个结婚出嫁, 只剩下我和一个姐姐抚养和照顾妈妈。她晚年时瘫痪, 60多岁就去世了。我姐姐不久就嫁了人, 我也在当年结了婚。

这时我开始享受我的第一次生命。我非常幸福, 非常健康, 而且是一名相当出色的运动员。我们有两个可爱的女儿。我在圣何塞有份满意的工作, 在半岛北部的圣卡洛斯有幢漂亮的房子。生活是称心如意的梦想。好景不长, 美梦中断了。我得了缓慢发展的运动神经病, 先是我的右臂和右腿活动受阻, 而后是左侧。我的第二次生命就此开始……

尽管我有病, 但是借着安装在车里的特殊设备, 我仍然每天开车上下班。我设法保持健康和乐观, 从某种程度来说, 是缘于14级台阶。

在说疯话吧?完全不是。我们的房子是个错层式建筑, 从车库到厨房门有14级台阶。这些台阶是生活的标尺, 是衡量我的标准, 也是我继续生存的挑战。我认为哪一天要是我不能提起一只脚登上一级台阶, 再费劲地拖上另一只脚–如此重复14次直到精疲力竭, 那我就完了–那时我只能承认我失败了, 可以躺下来等死了。因此, 我坚持工作, 坚持爬那14级台阶。时光荏苒, 两个女儿上了大学, 相继幸福地结婚成家, 只剩下我们夫妻俩相濡以沫, 守居在有14级台阶的漂亮家中。

你们或许会想, 在这里行走的是个有勇气和力量的人, 事实并非如此。这里行走的是一个痛苦地失去理想的一瘸一拐的残疾人, 一个因为那从车库通向后门折磨人的14级台阶才保持精神正常、没有失去他的妻子、房子和工作的人。随着年龄增长, 我变得更失望和沮丧。

后来, 1971年8月的一个黑夜, 我开始了我的第三次生命。那天晚上我起程回家时在下雨;我缓慢地沿着一条不经常走的路开着车, 天刮起阵阵劲风, 急剧的雨点直落在车上。突然间, 手中的方向盘跳动起来, 车子猛烈地朝右侧转去。同时, 我听到可怕的轮胎爆裂的砰声。我费劲地把车停在因雨水而滑溜的路肩上, 在这突如其来的严峻情况下, 我呆坐在车里。我不可能更换轮胎!根本不可能!可能有个过路的车会停下来, 这个念头一闪即逝。人家为什么就该停车呢?我知道我也不会。我想起离开支路不太远有幢房子。我起动了发动机, 车子慢慢摇晃着顺着路肩朝前蠕动到土路上, 谢天谢地, 在那儿我拐了上去。透着灯光的窗户把我迎向房子, 我开上车道, 按了喇叭。

门开了, 一个小女孩站在那儿, 费力地看着我。我摇下车窗, 大声说我的轮胎爆了, 需要有人帮我换掉它, 因为我是个用拐杖的残疾人, 没法自己动手。女孩进了屋, 一会儿又出来, 裹着雨衣, 戴着帽子, 后面跟着一个男人, 他高兴地向我问候。我舒舒服服地坐在车里, 一点没淋湿, 而那男人和小女孩在风雨交加的夜晚这么辛苦地干, 我感到有点儿歉意。反正, 我会给他们钱的。雨像是小点儿了, 我把车窗一直摇下看着车外。我觉得他们干得特别慢, 我开始不耐烦起来。车后传来金属碰撞声和小女孩清晰的说话声。“爷爷, 这是千斤顶把手。”那男人低沉的喃喃声回答了她。千斤顶顶起车子时, 车身慢慢倾斜。随后是好一会儿声响、晃动和从车后传来的低声话语, 但是轮胎终于换完了。移开千斤顶时, 我感觉到车子落地时的颠动;我听到关行李箱盖的声音;而后他们俩站在车窗旁。

那男人年迈, 弯腰曲背, 身穿油布雨衣, 显得身体虚弱。我猜那小女孩大约8岁或10岁, 有一张喜气的脸, 看我时笑容满面。他说, “这种糟糕的晚上车子有麻烦真够呛, 不过现在你没事了。”“谢谢, ”我说。“我该付你多少钱?”他摇摇头。“不要钱。辛西娅告诉我说你是个残疾人–用拐杖的。能帮上忙我很高兴。我知道你也会为我这么做。不要钱, 朋友。”我伸手递出一张5美元的钞票。“不要!我不喜欢欠人家的。”他没有收下钱的意思, 小女孩走近车窗, 轻声说道:“我爷爷看不见。”

在随后的几秒钟里, 我呆若木鸡, 那一片刻的羞耻和恐惧深深刺痛着我, 我有生以来第一次对自己感到那么强烈的厌恶。一个盲人和一个孩子!他们在黑夜里用湿冷的手指在黑暗中摸找和触摸螺栓和工具—对那老人来说, 这种黑暗可能将延续到他的生命结束。我不记得他们说了晚安离去后我在车里呆了多久, 但是足够我深刻反省, 挖找一些令我不安的品性。我意识到我极端自怜、自私、漠视他人的需要和不为别人着想。我呆在车上, 做了个祷告。

“所以无论何事, 你们要别人怎样待你们, 你们就得怎样待别人:这是摩西法律和先知教训的真义。”数个月过后, 如今对我来说, 这来自《圣经》的告诫不仅仅是《圣经》中的一段话, 而且是一种生活方式, 一种我现在要努力遵循的生活方式。这不总是容易的。有时令人沮丧, 有时在时间和金钱上要付出昂贵的代价, 但是有它的价值。我现在不仅每天爬14级台阶, 还尽量给人一些小小的帮助。或许有一天, 我会给一个坐在车里像我一样在心灵上有盲点的人换轮胎。

NOTE 注释:

inclined [in5klaind] 倾向…的

paralyze [5pArElaIz] vt. 使瘫痪, 使麻痹

peninsula [pi5ninsjulE] n. 半岛

garage [5^ArB:(d)V] n. 车库

gauge [^edV] n. 标准尺

disillusioned [7disi5lu:VEnd] adj. 清醒的,醒悟的

honk [hCNk] n. 雁叫声

crutch [krQtF] n. (跛子用的)拐杖

trait [treit] n. 品性,特点

scriptural [5skrIptFEr(E)l] adj. 圣经的


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《14级台阶 Fourteen Steps》

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