Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Wednesday Wish (157); People Watch

photo by video blocks via google images

It was mid morning in February on the outskirts of a suburban town. Fast food lines tapered out, gas stations only had a few cars, and traffic hummed along at a smooth and steady pace. Even though the rush had passed, there was still a palpable air of purpose, of intent. It was a town, after all, a well-oiled machine.

He gripped his shopping cart with chapped red fingers, his head low and tired. He dragged his feet in heavy, untied boots, one slow step at a time. He took no notice of the icicles forming on his dirty grey beard or the hitch in his wheel that bumped with a loud click every time it came around. He didn’t have the energy for it. Not a lick of anything happened for him these days beyond what was necessary. And not much was necessary.

As he passed McDonalds he didn’t even raise his head to catch the scent of hash browns mixed with hamburgers. Didn’t matter how much he loved that scent or that hardly anyone would notice if he gulped up that rare and delicious gift, he just didn’t care quite enough. The cost in energy was just too high. So he kept on trudging along as if it was the most natural thing in the world, to push a broken shopping cart on the side of the road on a freezing cold day in February.

When suddenly he saw an orange construction sign.

Would he stop in for hamburger now? Would he avoid the snarl of traffic, take it as an invitation to turn the other way? Or would he push forward, his purposeful intent as important to him as the man in the Mercedes who raced up to his own stop ahead?

I watched and wondered as he kept walking, one slow heavy step at a time.

And then, like a rocket kept hidden in the barn out back, he rose his foot and in one of the swiftest moves I’ve ever seen from even the most practiced of martial artists, he side-kicked that orange construction sign with a loud Bang! 

And in a millisecond, the barn door slammed shut again. He was back to himself—his cumbersome, raggedy, heavy, old Self.

I, on the other hand, was forever changed. 

Maybe because he fooled me with his unpredictable spirit. Maybe because I wrongly assumed he was as thoroughly sad as he looked. Or maybe because this man in torn, tattered clothing that hung off his body like rags had reminded me of the sheer childlike fun aching to be set free in each one of us no matter how heavy our lives seem to be. 

The finer things in life aren’t just free, his actions said to me, they’re actually inviting us outside to play, to be the wise playful children we were born to be.