Speaking, Listening, Believing
The train lurched forward and I had to hold onto a seat in order to keep my balance. I felt a little ashamed that I stumbled awkwardly but it was past the rush hour traffic and hardly anyone was on board. I sat down, glancing out the window and saw the usual sights pass by. Cars speeding down the highway, people hurrying down the street to their destination, buses parked and awaiting their fares. It was the same as always.
The train rolled slowly to a stop and I got out, shouldering my bag and making sure I had enough water for the long walk home. I stepped out around the corner of the station and began my walk next to a chain fence that surrounded a park. The sun was still hanging in the air, but only by a thin thread as it sank lower to the horizon by the minute. Passing by the entrance of the park, I saw an old man was sitting on a bench with a cane laying across his lap. His ragged hair was a wispy gray and he had a heavy brow filled with wrinkles. He wore a light brown jacket with a white collared shirt underneath and had pants to match the jacket but wore old, scuffed black dress shoes that appeared out of place. He looked relaxed as he stared at nothing in particular yet his eyes had a determined gleam in them as if he was challenging whatever was in his mind's eye. It was an odd sight, but everyone that saw him probably believed he was just daydreaming.
His eyes had suddenly gained focus and he stared at me. "Tell me your story son," he asked in a tired but confident voice.
"Excuse me?" I asked, looking around to see if anyone else was being spoken to. He picked up his cane and slowly walked forward with a small limp on his left side. I took a step back, unsure of what to do in the situation. He stopped a few paces in front of me before leaning on his cane and staring at me once more.
"Please, tell me your story." He turned around and walked back to the bench and sat down with a quiet sigh. "Just start from the beginning," he said.
The strange request was the last thing I expected to hear from a someone but it had caught my interest and there was still light in the sky. I walked to a patch of grass next to the bench and sat down, thinking of what I might say. The old man sat silently with his hands resting in his lap like he had all the time in the world to listen. I took a breath and began explaining my past, the events that had made an impact on me for better or for worse. It came easily at first, talking about the simple times I remember in my childhood and the friends I used to play around with. As I continued, my heart grew heavy as I recalled the loss of loved ones along the years, my rejections in love and the confusing state that we all go through while trying to find out who we are. The old man sat quietly on the bench, only moving to shift his feet or reposition himself to be more comfortable. I took his silence as a sign to continue.
I told him about my present struggles and accomplishments, my dreams and what I hope to accomplish in the near future and before I die. I began feeling the weight lift off my chest as I was able to freely speak my mind.
By the time I finished, night had already started to settle in and lamp posts and street lights were already shining brightly down the road. I stood up and stretched, uncaring that I could have been home much earlier. I shouldered my bag again and stood in front of the old man. He gave me one of the warmest smiles I have ever received and held out his hand. I shook it, feeling a connection with the man that I'm sure a few others might have felt before. He looked at me for a minute, considering, and finally spoke.
"You are doing just fine, son. This life that you have is full of surprises as I'm sure you've guessed. Keep those past dreams in mind and hold tight to the dreams of the present, and remember that as long as you can speak, make sure to listen. I've heard many stories in my time, each with similarities and differences, but one thing is always the same, we all want to be heard in some way. Now go, enjoy your present days and remember your past, if not with fondness then indifference, and keep those lessons you have learned in mind as you move forward in life."
I felt an understanding from his words and gripped his hand with confidence. "I will," I said while looking back at him as he smiled once more with a nod. He let go and began to get up, ignoring my assistance and took hold of his cane and walked down the road into the park. He didn't seem to be limping anymore. He now walked calmly, step by step.
I hurried home, enjoying the wind in the night air and feeling lighter in mind and spirit as the future began to seem clearer to me.