|photo by l7m via http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/luis-seven-martins-l7m-graffiti-birds|
Drivers scramble to get ahead of one another, to pass the flagger before he turns his sign back to ‘Stop’. I hear a honk. Another driver yells profanities. Turn signals blink like Christmas lights. There…there…there… and there. A city bus squeaks as it breaks, its passengers staring blankly out and over the tops of cars. Construction workers shovel and sweat, their bodies already shiny, overworked, exhausted. And their day has only just begun! The air hovers thick with street tar, bubbling, steaming, mixing with the angst of the drivers and their desperate pleas. Work, day care, coffee… ‘Stress,’ they all seem to scream, ‘get out of my way!’
Inside my Subaru I am warm and at peace. My heart rate is slow and steady. I wave a tight-jawed man to move ahead of me. He reminds me of a horse just let out of the starting gate. With nowhere to go. Another driver keeps looking into her backseat, her arm reaching backward in awkward positions, all to soothe her sobbing baby, her car stuck in a sea of frustration. Drama around me, peace within.
I wonder to myself what treasures await. Not tomorrow or after I get through this traffic jam, but now, right now—here—in this drama-filled, imagined community of mine. And when I do, my eyes catch sight of a thirty something man coming out of his apartment. He walks to the side of his home and lights up a cigarette. His eyes absorb the scene like a sponge. I see him notice many of the things I do, the chaotic frenzy right outside his door. And I watch, as he smokes it all away. One puff after another, smokes it all away. His face carries a tenderness, a softness that is something like I feel inside myself. I notice that I am smiling. At this gentle spirit touching my day. In the midst of an anger-frenzied traffic jam.
The thirty something man turns to walk up a set of stairs on the side of the building. And when he does, I see it. A swastika tattooed on his calf. Big and dark, hidden by his long shorts but revealed momentarily with each step up the stairs, there it is, shining back at me with conviction. I am confused. Such a hateful tattoo on a man who oozes with nothing but kind-hearted spirit. I blink and stare, wondering about the person he is, when the traffic begins to move. I inch forward, closer and closer, to this thirty something man smoking on his cigarette with a swastika tattooed on his leg. And when I am almost beside him, I roll down my window.
“You are such a kind soul. I can see it. I can feel it.” My smile is soft, filled with care.
He brings his cigarette down to his side, cocks his head and stares back at me, his eyes softening, maybe even glistening. “Thank you,” he says with a gentle smile.
“So why? Why do you wear a swastika on your leg? You're love, not hate, aren’t you?” My voice is genuine. I feel nothing but love in the midst of my vulnerability.
He nods, then drags his head down, heavy with shame, rising up only to speak a few words, “I am love. But I did some stupid things when I was younger.” His head falls back down.
“We all make mistakes,” I offer tenderly, “you’re only human. And it’s ok. All that matters is that now, you're love.”
He rises his now sparkling eyes to mine and shares a smile of pure love. I gobble it up. And the traffic moves.
I take my foot off the brake.
He mouths ‘thank you’ as I drive away,
our eyes locked in the beauty of our encounter.
* * *
Treasures await us in the most unsuspecting places
And love lingers behind even the most hateful appearances.
My Wish this week is that you dare to look past appearances, past the things that irritate and anger you, to the treasures that inevitably dwell on deeper levels, awaiting your discovery. Maybe it begins with a man on the side of the road as you wait in traffic, or maybe with a feeling that can only emerge when you are forced to truly slow down. No matter the path you decide to take, treasures will always await you, daring you to highlight love and to find your peace, and especially in the midst of anger and hate.