Lift

Traffic slowly stopped at the intersection. Agitation boiled from the driver just ahead. I watched him squirm. His car started and stopped, turned this way, then that. But there was nowhere for him to go. I could almost hear the curses.

The blockage was a homeless man shambling slowly across the road, oblivious to the flow of cars. His head bobbed in somber conversation with an invisible companion. Stringy hair flopped around a filthy face.

Who was he? Where did he grow up? Was there a time he had a crush on his English teacher, or win best dancer at the prom?  His clothes draped over his gaunt frame; everything was gray and brown. Had they once been once bright and colorful? Perhaps there was a time when his life had color. Nothing was left but the dull grays and browns of a heart so broken, it could not lift its eyes.

My wife had been dead a month. My soulmate for twenty three years. How do you separate two souls? Shatter them into a million pieces. I stumbled through days an hour at a time. One foot in front of the other was the best I could do. I was oblivious to the world around me. The day I saw the homeless man I understood. Really understood.

Everyone is born with a different tool-set. Physically, some people can beat a four minute mile, or taste wine and know the year wine was vinted. Emotionally, some people have iron skeletons. Others have hearts of glass.

I discovered an arrogance in myself. Have you ever been stuck behind a slowpoke on the road? It’s annoying. But maybe they can’t see as well as I can. Maybe they’re not as coordinated.

How do I respond to people who are grouchy and biting? With love or impatience? Do I know their past hasn’t been crushed by some awful experience? Would I be any better having gone through the same thing? What about those that aren’t as pretty or smart or affluent?

I’m ashamed to have felt frustrated and angry, even contemptuous and insulting.

Now I really understand how every good thing I have is a gift. Even what is earned comes from given potential. When I see someone who can’t reach as high, my eyes fill with tears. Instead of looking down on them, I look up and thank God for even the tiniest bit of strength or ability.

I look up and reach down. And lift.