It was a gorgeous sunshiny and very windy day in Joplin, had I stopped to notice. But I didn’t slow down as I was in hurry mode that afternoon. I had a check off list with many “to do’s” still left undone. Across town I ran into my realtor’s office to drop off what I hoped to be the last of extensive paperwork before finally selling our house. You see, I had been living in this ninety year old house of our dreams, alone. Now having dealt with open houses, realtors, criticism, frozen pipes and a tree branch that crashed through the front porch, the dream was long gone. It just HAD to sell this time. My husband had been forced to move on to start his new career in Oklahoma where he was living in a hotel. The entire situation was growing older with each day and I’m afraid my usual Pollyanna attitude had turned Cruella. Alright, if you know me, you know that is false. I am rarely Pollyanna. I am a realist. I don’t sugarcoat things, but I do always have a plan. I was beginning to lose all hope. And when you lose hope, ya got nothing.
And then it begin to happen right before my eyes and I didn‘t even realize it until it was all said and done. You know, that moment that will forever change you life? The time you will continue to reflect upon in the years to come and try to draw from it? (I truly think these moments happen often, we just don’t slow down long enough to inhale them.) I was running back to my car when I noticed just on the edge of the parking lot, what looked to be a young homeless man. Having raised two boys, there’s always been a special place in my heart for young men in need of help, but on this particular day, as you recall, “Cruella mode”, I hugged my purse a little tighter and started moving faster to my vehicle making certain NOT to make eye contact. As I reached to open the car door left unlocked (I never leave a door unlocked!), my attention was caught again by the traffic suddenly pulling over and halting. GREAT. A funeral procession and I would be stuck in this parking lot with a homeless man for how much longer?! Purse now thrown inside the car, I stood with my arm draped over the door, just observing. The motorcycle police lead, the hearse, the family cars following, the many friends. The entire world had stopped for this moment. Time stood still reminding me of loved ones I had lost. None-the less, here I am, waiting and giving in to the moment when I’m reminded again of the stranger I should be watching. And there he stood aside this funeral procession, now drawn closer to the road like he was a bystander at a parade. He was at full attention with his body. He slowly pulled off his knit hat, revealing his oily, matted hair; he grasped that dirty hat with all his might, trembling as he placed his hand over his heart and bowed his weary head. He just stood there in that position for what seemed like an eternity, and he waited for the last car to pass.
That forever moment was actually over quickly. He placed his hat back on his head and I jumped into my car, started the engine and turned where I could see him. I looked at this young man down on his luck that day. I cringed at myself for pouring out quick judgment on his life. I thought about his mama and his grandparents. Who had nurtured his beautiful heart that he would still harbor this honor and respect for other’s even when he was in a bad time of his own?
I looked his way through the side window of my car as I began to pull out of that parking lot. He gazed my way too, but I was very careful not to make eye contact. I had an aching feeling that he would be able to read the depth of my soul and I was too ashamed for it to be revealed.