A chance meeting that made me rethink loneliness
I met a man with a broken heart in the park today.
I did not intend to meet the 73-year old. He was just walking my direction as I was walking in his. Sometimes when I don’t feel like talking, I just give a fake smile and leave my AirPods in. But this man’s smile encouraged me to stop a moment to say hi.
“How many miles do you do a day?” he asked as I took out my AirPods.
“At least three on a bad day and five on a good day,” I said.
“How about you?” I asked.
“Well (as he starts to point), I usually start on Rose Street, go down to Wilson Mills, walk into the park, back down Wilson Mills over to Lander then over to Woodside,” he said as I politely nodded, even though I wasn’t sure of his exact route.
“My wife died so I walk a lot,” he said, “I was a plumber for 49 years, and when my wife died, I just walked away. Who walks away from a job after 49 years?”
I explained to him that 49 years is an eternity to be in the same job. I told him he should be proud of himself. Then I told him, his wife was probably smiling down from heaven on him as he took his walks.
“She never wanted to walk,” he said in a broken Italian accent. “That’s why she died. She used to make me drop her off at the front door every place we’d go. Me? I stay away from bacon, sausage, I have a piece of toast for breakfast. You can’t eat tacos, McDonalds, all of that. It’s not good for you.”
I agreed and told him I’d rather spend my money at Produce Place – a local mom and pop farm market I was certain he probably frequented. We laughed for a moment, and it started to get cold.
I asked him his name and told him I’d pray for him. He thanked me, and told me he has three daughters who watch out for him. I told him my name, and we said goodbye.
Alone, back into the cold, we went on our separate ways. I put my Aidpods back in and thought about how the man looked so much like my grandfather who died over two decades ago. Like Pete the Plumber, all my grandfather did was work for over 40 years at U.S. Steel in Lorain, Ohio and raise a family.
Money did not come easy to either man. They worked grueling hours to support their families. Even though I don’t have a family of my own, I relentlessly work to pay my bills, pay off my debt and save enough for my future.
I could say that money has not come easy to me, but just last week, I found a $100 bill in the park. It was a rainy, cold day, and I almost didn’t go. I bundled up, put my AirPods in and forced myself outside. As I was walking along my path with my hood down, I saw a $100 bill perfectly folded on the sidewalk in front of me. It was like it was put there just for me.
I grabbed it, and went on my walk. I didn’t want to get my hopes up in case the bill was fake. When I got home and examined it, I knew it was real. It’s already been spent.
Just like the $100 bill and Pete the Plumber, things come and go along our paths of life. We either take the time to examine the simple treasures, or we walk over them or right past them. In the past two weeks, I’m glad I was focused on the ground during one walk, and on an old man during another.
Both enriched my life, and gave me hope to carry on another day.