A late eighty-something year old man had just got out of his car and was zipping up his inner-coat as he prepared to take a walk when I had pulled up next to him. It felt like it was cold enough to snow, but probably more like in the forties. His was a faded yellow colored older car that was parked in the handicap spot that emptied out right as the path began. Closing his door, with cane in hand, he began his walk.
He was a man on a mission who looked like this was part of his daily routine. It was almost like he had someone to see and if he delayed, he might miss them. Sitting there in my car parked next to his, I sat there inspired as he made his way down the path.
“If I make it to that age, I hope I….” I sat there thinking to myself. As I snapped out of my current thought, the man by then was far beyond my line of site as he briskly went about his way.
Rolling up my window, I turned the engine back on and decided to drive a little further down the parking lot towards the river. I’m not sure why I was drawn to this specific park on this day. I just got in my car and drove.
Rather fitting I guess that this was Cathedral Park. I guess I needed a little church. It had already been quite the few weeks.
As I pulled over to the boat launch, I parked my rental car in one of the long parking spots designated for trucks and their boat trailers, got out, and began to walk back towards the park when I noticed a homeless man in a wheel chair searching for a cigarette next to the park restrooms.
My heart broke from what seemed liked a mile away as I sat there and looked over towards him. All alone in a wheelchair with a heavy jacket and an oversized knit cap, I wondered when his last moment of sobriety was. It was like I could literally smell the booze from where I stood.
I don’t remember a time when what seemed like a thousand thoughts crossed my mind in a single second. Did he have a family? How did he get to this place in life where he sat all alone? Does anyone know his name? I prayed so.
My mind then shifted back towards the park where I began to make my way down the path that wound itself throughout the park and under a large bridge that spanned across the river just to the right of me. Now back on the asphalt path, I looked up and couldn’t believe my eyes. Through the bright yellow leafed trees that lined the path, there he was.
The old man with a cane was making his way towards me. I felt starstruck. The guy was just awesome and inspiring and quite frankly had such a sense of contentment about him. He was one of those people you come across ever so often where you think… whatever he has, I want.
As he quickly moved towards me, I sat there with camera in hand to the very right edge of the pavement and froze as he made his way past me. I wondered if he knew what I was thinking as I turned around and watched as he continued his way down the path.
Wanting now to just let this man be without me stalking him all over the park, I turned back towards the direction I was headed and paused for another moment as just ahead, a young teenager wearing a red dress posed in front of a park bench for what appeared to be her senior photos.
I then quickly moved past the photoshoot and found a trail littered with leaves that ran through some trees and out to a small beach on the shore of the river. I stood there long enough to take some pictures and decided to head back.
Now back on the path and walking towards my car, I was deep in thought with my head down and watching my every footstep. I couldn’t get out of my mind the perceived significance of the two men I had encountered.
Hearing the sounds of voices up ahead, I looked up and couldn’t believe my eyes. There they were.
The old man with a cane was sitting at the far end of a park bench with his hand on his cane and legs crossed. At the opposite end of that same park bench, sat the homeless man in the wheelchair.
Passing by, I could hear the homeless man, as he smoked a cigarette, slurring unintelligible words towards the old man with a cane sitting at the opposite end of the bench. With a brief moment of pause after the homeless man spoke, the old man with a cane actually responded.
“I think it can be whatever you want it to be.” he said in response to who knows what the homeless man had said to him.
I couldn’t believe my ears. They were communicating with one another like they understood every word that was being said.
Continuing on past them, I made it back to the very edge of the park path, and looked back towards them, as I stood there now hidden by the trees that separated us. I couldn’t resist, so I snapped a picture. This was something I needed to ponder further.
Moments later, the old man with a cane rose to his feet, said goodbye, and then made his way back around the park and back to his old faded yellow colored car.
“What just happened?” I thought as I stood there with my right hand on the driver side door handle of my rental car.
This makes me think..
Everybody needs somebody. You don’t always need to understand the words that are being spoken. Perhaps all you need to do, is to show up.
And this makes me think..
Am I that somebody? Are you?
We better not delay. We might miss them.