By Veronica Marie Lewis
A young woman sits at the table across from me at the Food Court. She seems lost in a moment, and has a smile on her face that can only be described as blissful.
I wonder… what makes her so happy? One of her purchases, perhaps? I see on her table, bags from Bath & Body Works, Ann Taylor, and that oh-so-familiar pink-striped bag that doesn’t even need the store’s name printed on it. I know, whenever I have one of those little bags in my hand, I have a BIG smile on my face!
Or, did you get some new aromatherapy candles at Bath & Body Works, and can’t wait to get home and relax in a nice, hot bubble bath with your new candles? I’m tempted to ask her if she has tried the Black Currant Vanilla, my personal favorite, but I don’t want to interrupt her reverie.
A perfect summer day! Two young children at the zoo - twins I think to myself, racing ahead of their mother, across the green expanse of the Concert Lawn toward the elephant exhibit. The sound of their laughter and the shrieks of joy, tell a story.
I wonder… did they enjoy the polar bears as much as I do? Of all the animals at the zoo, the polar bears are my favorite! Did they look at the polar bear’s feet and wonder at the strength and grace in those huge paws? Were their eyes filled with awe as they watched the polar bears diving for fish; those enormous mammals swimming with the grace of a fish?
I wonder… did they marvel in wonder at the bright, beautiful colors of the Lorikeets in the aviary? Did they want to reach out and touch those colored feathers? Were their little button noses wrinkled in disgust at the smells of the monkey cage one moment, and then in the next, laughing with glee at the antics of its inhabitants?
Fall has come once again to the City of Roses. Tina and I are sitting on a bench along the Eastside Esplanade, taking in the autumn colors amidst the cityscape. An elderly couple approaches, holding hands and walking with a familiar stride that bespeaks of their years together. Their faces radiate love and happiness.
I wonder… what is your secret? How long have you been married… twenty years? 30? 40? More? Did you discover long ago, something that I have yet to learn? Do your hearts still sing every time you gaze into one another’s eyes? Do you wake up every morning to the thought “… I love this person lying next to me even more today than I did yesterday”
I wonder… when you see young couples like Tina and I, do you yearn to be young again? Or, has the journey that brought the two of you to where you are today, been so wonderfully, marvelously incredible, that you wouldn’t trade it for anything? Does it all really come down to these three words – Live… Laugh… Love? Is that your secret?
An old man - one of this city’s all-too-many homeless - sits huddled on the sidewalk, dressed in tattered clothing that can’t possibly keep out winter’s chill, hopelessness and dejection carved into his face. A hand held out… in hope?
I wonder… what are his circumstances? What brought him here… to the streets? Did he used to be a successful computer engineer, whose company merged with another and out-sourced their work, putting him out of a job? Did some big, heartless bank take away his home with one hand, and with the other, take a billion-dollar bailout from the government? Or, does he have a drug or alcohol problem that, over the years, took away his job, his dignity, his family, his life? And society, in its head-long rush to over-achieve and accumulate, cast him aside, tossed away like an empty Starbuck’s cup?
I stop in front of the man and reach in my purse for something to give him. He looks up at me and as our eyes meet, I realize that he is not that old… in his 40’s maybe. I had first taken him to be much older, judging from his appearance.
I wonder… how long has he been out on these streets? How does he still have hope for his fellow man, even while they have given up on him?
Pulling the glove from my hand, I pick some bills from my wallet, offering them to him. As he reaches across the gap between us to accept them, I have a sudden urge to touch his hand, to offer more than just money, to offer a little human contact. All day long people veer around him, anxious to avoid any contact.
I wonder… is it just romantic conceit on my part to think that a brief touch is going to bridge that gap, that it will make up, in some small measure, for society’s shunning him? Will that touch keep him warm at night?
As the man takes the money from my hand, I press my fingers against the dry flesh of his hand and offer up a small smile. He tries to smile back, but I think he has forgotten how. In a cracked voice, he speaks… “Thank you.” Two words… filled with gratitude and sincerity. I realize he is not just thanking me for the money, and I am overcome. A huge lump has suddenly filled my throat and I am unable to speak. I can only nod and give a little smile, my eyes welling with tears.
I wonder… at the capacity of the human heart. Here is a person who has literally nothing, and yet, with two simple words, has given me something I will keep and remember always. A moment in time, where another person has touched my heart…
...and given me hope.
Veronica Marie Lewis
February 28, 2010