The Old Man in the Park

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a meeting with a strange old man

I see him every morning

Sitting in the park

On the same wooden bench

 

I see him every evening

Sitting in the park

On the same wooden bench

 

An old man wearing ragged clothing

Unkempt white beard

Protruding ears

Gaunt face

Haunted blue eyes

He bothers no one

No one bothers him

That bothers me

Every time I see him

I think of a benevolent grandfather

A kindly old soul

A man who likes to help others

He reminds me of a destitute Santa 

Poor old thing

I can see him from my Penthouse Suite

Just sitting there

On the same wooden bench

In the park

Unflinching

Eyes staring straight ahead

Tomorrow, I decide, I will do something

 

I enter the park under a cloud of rain

A cold wind swirling all around

My camel coat keeping me warm

Leather gloves nice and snug

I see the old man

On the same wooden bench

Eyes staring straight ahead

I stop before him and sit on the bench

He moves not an inch

For a moment, there is silence

I turn to speak

The old man is staring directly at me

He looks much older than I thought

Older than time itself

'I ... I don't mean to be rude,' I say

The old man continues to stare

'I see you sitting here every day.'

No response

'And ... and it bothers me.'

Silence

'It's frightfully cold. You must surely be chilled to the bone.'

The old man utters not one word

I dip into my coat pocket

And pull out my wallet

'I don't know your circumstances ... but I want you to have this.'

I hand over a bundle of notes

The old man makes no effort to take the money

'Please,' I say. 'Please take the money.'

The old man's eyes look painfully sad

He tenders a mild smile

Then to my surprise he speaks

'You are the first, my child.'

A slight frown peppers my forehead

'The first to take any notice of me.'

His voice sounds so appeasing

Perfectly tuned

'The first to offer me human kindness.'

I'm unable to speak

'The first to pass this simple test.'

I'm terribly confused

'So many have failed. I think I've lost count.'

The old man stands

And places an aged hand upon my shoulder

'I have no need for money,' he says

A strange feeling flows through my body

Like ripples of glorious golden warmth

I close my eyes

Then everything becomes clear

An incredible revelation

'You have a compassionate heart,' the old man says

I open my eyes

The old man is gone

Vanished without a trace

But I know ...

I know who he is

Tears fill my eyes

I cry like a baby

I allow the money to slip from my grasp

I make no effort to retrieve the money

I have no need for money

I sit on the bench

For a very long time

Eyes staring straight ahead

 

 

 

 

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