Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Daily Mundane Lesson #1 - "LISTEN" (Part I)

(Thanks to all of you who voted for the 31 Days of Writing Challenge content!  The Daily Mundane won by a VERY narrow margin.  So I'll be writing mostly from that angle, though I will pepper a few "Autumn: A Season of Change" posts in for those of you who asked for them.  Happy October!)

I was leaving the grocery store last Wednesday, pushing a cart full of essentials and non.
I stalled for a moment behind a woman who had fished something out of her purse to hand to her left.
When the cart line got moving again, I saw him.
Wedged between the crates of water and a huge display of pumpkins, an elderly man - 
dirty, tattered and tired - sat on the cold concrete ground.  
He didn't take advantage of sitting at the round tables in the courtyard opposite of his position.  
It was as though he thought his place was beneath.

As I approached, he asked me, "Can you spare some change?"

Now, as I my children can sadly attest, I NEVER carry cash.  Those poor kids have had to deal with a lifetime of me saying to them, "What do you mean you need money for a field trip today?!? You HAVE to give me at least a day's notice," as I rifle through their banks, taking cash and writing an IOU to leave behind.  (I still haven't, ahem, fulfilled a few of those yet.  Really oughtta get on it.)

I said, "I'm so sorry, I never carry cash, but would you like some fruit?  I have some bananas and apples in here somewhere."  He indicated that would be fine, so I started the hunt and found only a banana before I noticed the shopping cart line getting quite lengthy behind me.  I shoved the fruit into his hand and said, "Have a great day!" 
(Really Cynth? A great day?  This guy has no home, is starving and needs a shower...HOW is he going to have a great day under these circumstances?)

I walked to my car, ticking off my innumerable morning "to do's," all while trying to ignore the incessant chant that had taken up residence in my head.
"A banana?  A banana?  All you gave that poor man was a banana? You have to do more."
Thoughts of upcoming appointments, chores and work items did their best to drown out the chanting.  But how could I leave without giving this poor soul more than a banana?
I fished out an apple and started the short trek back to the pumpkin pile.
(Really, Cynth? A lone apple?  Sure, that should do it.)

Of course, by the time I got there, a mere thirty seconds later, it struck me how absurd it was that adding an apple to my offering would quell the thought..."a banana? a banana? a banana?" which accusation had become the rhythm to my gait.
I arrived back and said to the man, "Here's an apple.  I couldn't find it in my bags while I was standing here." 
"Would you like to come inside with me, and I'll get you something more substantial to eat?"
He hurried to his feet - possibly before I changed my mind? - and rushed, "That would be really nice.  I'm really hungry."

As we walked to the deli (his this point, I would have bought him an entire grocery store aisle, I was so heartbroken at his eagerness), I asked his name.
"So what's your story?"
(Really, Cynth?  "What's your story?!?"  Clearly I need some finessing to my tact in these situations.  Argh...)
Thankfully, he didn't look offended and seemed amenable to sharing.
His back was injured years ago...
He was skilled only in manual labor...
Even with a multitude of surgeries, he couldn't work as needed to be considered a valuable part of of the labor force.
Slowly, he lost most of his things and his home...though, it seemed by his positive attitude, he didn't lose his way.

We reached the deli and Virgil ordered from a very skeptical looking guy peering at me from behind the counter.
Tuna on white...lettuce and tomato with extra mayo.
"May I go get a drink from the refrigerated section?" Virgil asked.
Of course!
"Did I want to make it a combo?" Mr. Skeptical asked.
Of course!
Then, as I judged the guy behind the counter for his cynicism, he asked what type of chips I would like.  I looked around the corner for Virgil so I could ask him, and when I didn't readily see him, my mind and heart went to a dark place...
"Oh no, the dairy items are right next to the liquor.  What have I done?"
And I joined suspicious deli guy in a moment of sanctimonious judgment....

{Stay tuned tomorrow for the rest of the story about
Virgil, Judgy Judgerson, and listening for the call.
Thanks for reading.}


  1. Wow! I love your story! Thanks for sharing! I will be back to read Part 2 for sure!

  2. Thanks sweet to comment. Part II is posted (next day) and - Spoiler alert - may break your heart. :) Thanks for stopping by - you're welcome any time!