Picture a busy street. One crammed with four lanes of commuters cruising along at 55 mph. Add the bike lanes. Add the sidewalks. What do you see? Is your imaginary sidewalk empty? Or did you see the runner? Did you see the children walking with their parents? Did you see the dog and his owner? Did you see the woman in the wheelchair sitting peacefully beside her companion?What do you think of the things that you see? Or do you, for that matter, think at all.
Years ago I was the runner on that busy street and I was lucky enough to observe one of the most beautiful things that I have ever seen. Although it wasn’t until very recently that I came to realize just how fortunate I was to have experienced that particular moment … the path I used to run winds alongside a river. It’s a popular path and in all truthfulness you’re just as likely to see an Olympic athlete pounding the pavement as you are to see a father walking with his four year old on a tricycle.
It was early August. The air, although hot and sticky, still managed an occasional breeze thanks to the river. And my disposition, while far from lovely, was not totally rotten; though I feared it would start to decay if I didn’t complete my standard run …
I was in my early twenties and admittedly, not too concerned about much of anything other than my own agenda … and as I trudged along, rounding the bend of my seventh mile there, a mere hundred yards ahead, I could see someone or something blocking my path. How dare someone have the nerve to actually come to a stand still on my sidewalk! Force me to jump down to the bike lane. The audacity!
As I approached the suspect blockage it became clear that there was, indeed, a wheelchair stalled horizontally in my path; a wheelchair with a passenger and attendant by her side.
The passenger, aged and crippled, was a woman whose expression radiated pure joy. Not just happiness or contentment, but joy. The kind of joy that makes angels dance. Pure. Simple. Extraordinary.
Her companion, an elderly man, presumably her husband, was holding something in his hand. I couldn’t quite make it out but I could tell he was focused on her face and that whatever he was holding was vital to their moment. A moment in which they were both so completely absorbed that they failed to see the runner approaching … starring … slowing … and passing by. The woman had her eyes closed. And he, although I recall our eyes meeting briefly, was totally unaware of my presence. And, just like his companion, he was smiling one of those marvelously uncontaminated smiles.
And you know what he was doing … he was feeding her. Plump fresh blackberries that he had picked from the bushes along the riverbank. And to this day it was one of the most peaceful, yet thought provoking things I have ever encountered.
I remember wondering how entirely selfless someone would have to be in order to become completely lost in the concern for another’s comfort. What was that real? That honest? And would I ever be that person?
And now, twenty years later, I’d like to think I am that person … no, I know I am. The people closest to me are my joy – pure, simple, extraordinary, and I would revel at the chance to feed them blackberries if that would make them happy … even if it meant forcing a 20-something runner into the bikelane for a few seconds of her busy day.
Sometimes a big obstruction may just prove to be a minor obstacle that puts you on a better path.
Today’s post inspired by: The Daily Prompt – Exposure. “Among the people you’ve known for a long time, who is the person who’s changed the most over the years? Was the change for the better?”