He was running late, as usual, and immediately noticed the unattended stubble on his chin and cheeks as he stared at himself with exasperated eyes. These last ten years had been pretty rough on his soul, but as his family and friends often remarked, “he was the fighter who never gave up.” However, on this particular morning, he felt like abandoning whatever distant ideals he once spouted and lived.
For a split second, he recalled, standing there with a loaded toothbrush and the sound of running water, the days that he thought he experienced total clarity about his life and his place in the world. It seemed like eternity ago, especially now with such a strange and even bizarre turn of events with COVID-19 and its subsequent divisive havoc upon the country and especially on his own circle of family and friends. He had not fully realized how disheartening things had spiraled out of control.
He wanted to start off the new year with just the right amounts of optimism laced carefully with a warm, not cold or stark, realistic approach to life so as to avoid any crushing embarrassment or feelings of abandonment or even worse, rejection. Unfortunately, the phrase he remembered from a poem he had read years earlier prevailed over his most sincere efforts which went something like, “the best made plans of mice and men often go awry.” And they most certainly did not even one week into 2021.
It started with family. Of course, he understood the cautionary approach to gatherings and how important it was to keep distance as a priority but still maintain closeness. But what he did not understand was how some members of his family still gathered and he was not included in their plans. Still, he remained positive. Then there was his old college roommate with whom he shared great times and memories who kept putting off their yearly visits with phrases like, “I’m just not ready,” and “things are simply not safe.” All the while, even amid these pronouncements, which seemed rational on the surface, there were still dinners, and parties, and other memories made even with some who had already contacted the virus and were still susceptible to it. Again, there were no harsh words spoken or blame games to be played. He just accepted how things were to be. For how long, was anyone’s guess.
The Ancient Romans had a theory of the events happening in threes. They called it “Omne trium perfectum.” (Three makes perfect.) This has interestingly trickled down to what some call “The Rule of Three” which is a principle in writing and literature that suggests that a trio of events or characters is more humorous, satisfying, or effective than other numbers. As a life principle, no doubt debatable but not without merit, came to life for him right on the first day of January when he had hoped to begin things with a sincere and noble start. His best friend, who had an equally tumultuous 2020 with very little going according to plan, had suggested they have a “kick-off” to new beginnings with a long and meaningful lunch at one of their favorite haunts. Everything seemed posed to have that great start and they agreed on the time and place late in the afternoon of New Year’s Eve. He had arrived a little early to order a scrumptious appetizer and his own favorite pre-meal beverage of toasting the hopes and desires of the new year with his normal optimistic disposition and genuine expectation of the fruits of friendship. And he waited. And waited. And then some more. His darling waitress, probably a struggling college student herself, could not hold back the sympathetic glances and occasionally phrases of support. His friend never arrived and while the second drink had already been served, he decided to order, scarf down his lunch, and then return to the bold and promising hours of the new year, such as they were. So there it was: his family, his old college friend, and now this. Three for three.
He came to the obvious conclusion that it is probably and most likely easier to accept something like this happening to you when it is done by an unfriendly source or by even an enemy, but when a friend stands you up or just casually forgets you, it is so much harder. That was exactly what happened. “I simply forgot,” and with that explanation arrived a myriad of reasons, explanations, and begging for forgiveness, which, of course, as usual, was immediately delivered without any fanfare and with the promise that the incident would never be resurrected again, especially in the venturesome months ahead. However, it did still keep returning to his consciousness and back thoughts with numbing regularity. “How does anyone forget their friends, their family, and what they mean to them?” he would ponder with the same empty results each time. “And why is it always YOU who have to be understanding, forgiving, and patient?” This mantra had also produced the same vacuous response.
“Well, that was enough self-pity for the morning,” he thought, and with that, he finished his bathroom routine and made his way to the kitchen to collect a few things before rushing off to work, including lunch. It was at that moment that he clumsily spilled a basket of apples from the kitchen counter onto the floor. For a moment, time stood still as he was transported back about twenty years earlier while at his first job in Chicago. He was living in nearby Gary, Indiana, and would drive to the local carpool area to catch the Metro into the “Windy City” for work. This one particular morning of repressed and dislodged memory, his wife drove him there planning to return later that night after the arrival of the last train to pick him up and bring him back home for dinner. His entire day was full of successful sales and hard-pressing meetings, and he found himself running late to make the last train back home. He sped on foot as fast as possible and when he got down to the tracks of the station, his wildly swinging briefcase knocked over a strangely-positioned crate of apples which sent them flying in every direction. Even though he made it inside one of the cars, his conscience got the best of him and he decide to get off and help pick up the apples which were apparently being sold by a young boy by the tracks. He was glad he did. The boy was blind.
He slowly gathered the apples that he sent spinning all over the station, one by one, until he figured that he retrieved all of them. He slowly made his way to the young boy and reaching for his wallet, he pulled out three twenty-dollar bills and carefully made his way to the blind apple seller. A few tears welled up on his face as he softly placed the bills in the boy’s small hands and calmly said the following: “I am the one who knocked over your apples and I am very sorry. Here, I am placing sixty dollars in your hands. These are twenty-dollar bills, sixty dollars, so don’t let anyone take them from you or tell you otherwise. I hope I haven’t ruined your day.” And with that, he began to walk away, and he may have forever left that blind boy’s life except for the fact that the young man wistfully called out: ”Sir?! Sir?! Are you Jesus?” This simple question froze him in his tracks, and he was never the same again.
Perhaps the moment had become buried deep down in his soul after twenty years of ups and downs, disappointments and other life moments that may or may not have taken the joy and reason out of his life. However, this morning, it came back with just an innocent kitchen accident that sent apples rolling and his memory engaged. It was precisely at this profound moment that he renewed his desire to be the man he believed God had created him to be, a man who reflects Jesus His Son in every opportunity possible. He wondered where that blind boy was right now, a man of about thirty or so. However, it did not matter. Today, he would approach his family, his friends, and all the people God had placed in his life with the same tireless, noble effort.
And wiping a few tears that had formed, he turned and began his day and the rest of his life, again.
Share your thoughts (20 thoughts)
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered; Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; Succeed anyway. If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; Be honest and frank anyway. What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; Be happy anyway. The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you’ve got anyway. You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God; It was never between you and them anyway. St. Teresa of Calcutta