It’s amazing what little gems the world can slip to you as you go about your day. With so much negativity floating through the cosmos these shiny drops of positivity shine all the more bright. So it is that I learned a sharp lesson. One simple moment that shifted my thinking forever.
My job involved the pick up and delivery of various documents around the city. I spent my days on the road. This afforded me the opportunity to see a variety of locals. From homes on the beach, perched on stilts above the sands, to junk yards guarded by feral doberman and rottweiler dogs. It was an interesting job. Every day I was thrown out into the river of life, whether I liked it or not, and it whipped me about and spun me in and out of people’s lives. I was touching on a hundred different worlds but never stopping to live in any of them. Some days the road stretched in front of me and the blue expanse of sky beckoned me forth into the universe. Other days the cab of my small truck was like a prison, and I twisted and squirmed on my seat, pounding my hands on the steering wheel. Those days were dark and mean times. I had no one to talk to. Corrupted thoughts filled my skull. I would try to go blank and to just exist for the day, my mind dark as I navigated the endless streets. But the stopping and starting. The sun constantly burning at my eyes. Some days it was all I could do to function. Those were the bad days.
One morning I found myself having a bad day. Instead of picking up a run to the beach I had been dispatched to the city where I would most likely spend my day. Hundreds of stop lights awaited me, along with damp tunnels and traffic jams. I wasn’t thrilled with my situation. To make matters worse my first stop took me to what was probably my least favorite place. A hardware store in a rough area. I was twenty and looked fifteen. They didn’t get a lot of white boys in a shirt and tie in that neighborhood. I have this thing about getting shot. I choose not to do it. Every time I was sent to that place I worried that the choice would be taken out of my hands.
I pulled into the neighborhood, shocked as always at how peaceful it seemed if you didn’t look too close. Large mature trees grew on either side of the street, arching over and screening the rusted cars, covering them in dappled sunlight. I pulled up to the first stop sign with every intention of rolling through. But there was a man there. He was shuffling into the road and it struck me as rude to blow by him.
He walked slowly towards the car. He was tall and thin and stooped. His skin was dark and lined deeply from many hard lived years. His clothes were worn but functional. I wondered if he was homeless. As he reached my truck he put a hand onto the hood and looked towards me, his eyes dull and mean looking. “Here we go,” I thought to myself. He stood there staring. I had to fight the urge to reach over and roll up my window. He was only a few feet away and I was feeling a bit exposed. Sitting there, uncomfortably idle in the warm morning air, I began to deeply regret not passing him by when I had the chance. With no other options I did the only thing I could think of. I gave the man the hardest look I possessed. A look that I hoped would convey the message that I was young and strong. Not a person to be trifled with. He stared back for a moment and then his face began to change. It was like a mask was lifted away. His features animated and a light came into his eyes. A grin stretched his mouth showing gaps where his teeth had once been. He said, “Cheer up young man. Can’t nothing be that bad. God bless you.”, and with a final clap of his hand on my hood he strolled on by.
I pulled away from the stop sign with a smile on my face. Unexpectedly I felt a lump in my throat and I struggled to swallow it back. I felt enlightened but ashamed. For some reason deep inside I had hated that man. Fear controlled me and I had wanted him hurt. I had judged him only to find that it was me who was guilty. Sitting there in my expensive clothes, driving my company vehicle, I exuded such pain and misery that the goodness inside him had forced him to stop and try to help. And he had. As I exited my vehicle to enter the store I noticed a group of rough looking youths staring at me. I met ones eyes and nodded. He nodded back.