Monday, August 3, 2009

We're not all like that...

There but for the grace of God, go I.

I noticed the man as I was driving into town to pick up my supper. I was lazy, I suppose- I had plenty of fresh vegetables at home to prepare a quick meal, but I was hungry for Mexican- precisely, Nachos Al Carbon. ( I believe that's what they're called.) He was standing under the overpass on business 55, also known as a little jaunt of Route 66. He looked a bit disheveled, loaded down by a backpack, a suitcase on wheels and a duffel bag. He had a dirty old ball cap almost pulled down further than his ears would allow. He had stopped and was looking around as I passed on the other opposite lanes, me heading South, he North. As I passed and looked perhaps a bit to intensely at him, his eyes met mine- he seemed to know I was thinking about him, observing him.

For a moment, my heart went out to this stranger- he was talking to no one in particular to my sight, though I suppose to him his constant invisible companion was a friend or a mentor. Either way- the few steps he would take were followed by a pause, a shifting of baggage and then a conversation with the air. So my concern for him stayed in my head and heart, encased by the safety of my truck cab and I went on with my business of acquiring supper down the road. Of course when I got to the restaurant, giving them a full ten more minutes than they said of the twenty minutes that would be needed to prepare my order-my takeout wasn't ready. I sat and read a local paper, waiting wondering about the man wandering along the road side. I wondered where he was going and how long before the state troopers would scoop him up after finding him walking and talking in his unusual way to the invisible nothing striding along side him.

With my supper secured I headed back home, again wondering if I would see the man- had he made it to the interstate yet? Surely he had, unless his lengthy conversations lasted longer than his actual steps. As I neared my turn off on Wolf Creek Road, I spied the man just then loping across the graveled road way. I deliberately slowed, my heart and head fighting- here was my chance to reach out to my fellow man, give him a lift ( not literally) by perhaps a little kindness in the way of a smile and acknowledgement with a wave. (But my head said "he's crazy- and sister we know crazy, ain't no reasoning with 'em!" So, I kept to the road.) I needed to turn right, he needed to go straight across the road and just then, a jeep came from the east, slowing to stop before entering business 55. The poor wayward man looked for a moment- perplexed. The Jeep posed the problem of his getting across the roadway faster than the he had counted on. He did look up at the driver, with a kind of apologetic gaze, sheepishly he trudged on, purposely giving the duffel bag and suitcase a needed boost, he was hurrying. I was relieved, still some sanity there, enough to act accordingly anyway. I pulled in, the Jeep driver looking mighty P.O'd, as if he had been waiting longer than time allowed. The driver looked at me as if dumbstruck- "Can you believe this guy, this trash?!" And the next thing I know, he burned out of there- spraying the poor man with rocks and gravel and dust. There was absolutely no need in that, none. The homeless man just stood there. I stopped then, just before crossing the tracks. I looked out the window as the dust settled, so wanting to say something, anything to make up for the inhumane treatment my traveling friend had just suffered. Again, his eyes met mine and in the briefest second he conveyed to me a wordless why.
Brother, I just don't know. I mouthed, "I'm so sorry, we're not all like that." I couldn't even smile or wave. I wanted so then to jump out and prove to him that we are in fact, not all like that. That his freedom, his safety, his very being was as precious as any one's, that he mattered. But even the pick ax in my door, hidden by a concave compartment- wasn't enough security to allow me to do something as reckless as picking up a hitchhiker who appeared to be a bit on the schizophrenic side.

All I could do was pray, maybe asking a bit of forgiveness for my powerless feeling. My safety and security were fortified by my remaining in the vehicle of my choice. The homeless man's choice? To be showered by rocks, to wonder why, to wander on...

Sometimes in this world, things happen and I do feel so powerless but I find by doing the best that I can do right here right now, being kind and not only tolerant but accepting of any and all lives, even the ones that are filthy, dirty, beyond my understanding as to the whys of those lives- I find at least some comfort in knowing that we can inhabit this big wide world together. Somehow, we go along to get along- don't we? But right there in my midst, a wrong doing occurred, the strong oppressed the weak, made unsafe an other's journey. Why? The guy in the jeep was at least my age. The man walking, hard to tell- I'd say 40ish. But the point is this, he was doing nothing wrong...he was just on his way. What makes some folks among us so intolerant? We're not all like that...

I hope on that man's journey, someone braver than I can make that very clear to him. Take care-

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

My dad, a state trooper for 33 years(back in the day that he was a cop 24/7) would assist as many as he could. I learned that myself when I, as a lad, watched. Of course now I have to worry about my family with me on helping but I to have an instict to assist like you and sometimes prevent myself from that. From Dan (former customer/lawn care provider)

Jayne said...

It is painful to see disregard for any human being, regardless of their circumstances, isn't it? Like you, I'd have wanted to DO something, but would also probably have been too afraid for my own safety. I know a friend who keeps $5 McDonald's gift cards in his car, and that is how he "helps" when he sees someone like that in need. Just simply hands them one and say, God bless. I like that idea.

Audrey said...

Being able to look upon you, my friend, and the kindness in your eyes, that was for your traveler a lift, one he probably didn't expect. You always lift me up,, and everyone else around you, one of your most endearing qualities. Love you.
A

Anonymous said...

You cared enough to write about this man and teach us all a lesson in tolerance this morning. And it's perfectly normal to be concerned about your safety when someone like that crosses your path. But you said a prayer for him, showed him a kind face and told us his story. The McDonalds cards are a great idea!!
Love, Rhi

Anonymous said...

Jaynes got a good idea there. I have wanted to help but worry that cash might be a enabling tool to get what may have brought them to that point. Think I'll stop at mickey d's and pick up a few and can hand them that without endangering myself or enabling a bad habit. Wish I had better answers but I dont and there but for the grace of god go I

R.D.