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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Two Old Men: An Early Morning Encounter of the Alone.

I have seen both of them before, one many times over the last year (he takes walks often during a typical day and never makes eye-contact with anyone), and one in the last few weeks. One is short, a tad grizzled, and bearded; the other is tall and clean-shaven. One dresses in a non-descript way, but mostly appropriate to the season, although shabbily. The other wears too-short, checked pajama bottoms with various shirts or a rumpled, tan overcoat. He has black shoes and no socks. One walks staring forward always. The other stops and looks around a bit, then moves on. Both seem to shuffle with an awkward gait.

Both go about their business daily and alone, at least on the streets.

This morning as I sat alone with Jesus, looking out my kitchen window and up North Main Street, I noticed the tall gentleman ambling up the street past Veracruzana and Lucky's Tattoo Shop. He is on the same mission I see him on daily. He searches the black hookah-looking, cigarette butt receptacles scattered around downtown. He's looking for a smoke.

Today is his lucky day. He finds one and lights up. Then, he turns around with one hand on his hip and gazes up North Main Street, leisurely puffing on his prize. Just a minute or so later, the smaller gentleman comes into view and is walking slowly toward him, eyes fixed on the sidewalk. As he passes, the taller man extends his cigarette to him in a gesture of sharing. I couldn't see if he says anything to him. In any event, the shorter man walks right by not even looking at the taller man. He never turns his head to acknowledge the neighborly gesture. The man with the cigarette holds it out to him until he is well past - a show of kindness ignored.

Utterly poignant to me was the way the tall man held out the cigarette to the short man; how he persisted. He was trying to connect. His was a grand gesture, albeit awkward, as if he wasn't sure what to do exactly, but did it just the same.

The gesture of the tall man showed me his humanity; he held out his hand. He tried to give something. The other man didn't respond or maybe just never noticed. Their aloneness to one another was apparent at that moment.

I realize I saw a tiny thing, but it had an elegant beauty to it. He might be mentally ill, who knows, but for a moment I was there to notice his quiet gesture of kindness and sharing.

I bet God did too.
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