Sometimes a lesson that arrives completely out of the blue whacks you upside your head with the strongest meaning.
My wife had just parked our car for our regular Saturday morning breakfast date. She had discovered a spot just a couple of spaces down from the on-street ATM machine, which was good because we needed some cash to eat. As usual, I didn’t have the ATM card, she did, and even more typically, I just couldn’t find it in her wallet. She, of course, pulled it out in a flash and handed it to me with a roll of her eyes.
Laughing, visions of ham and eggs in my head, I bounded out of the car with ATM card in hand. I stepped to the curb and here came a homeless man. How did I know that he was homeless? I don’t know, I just knew.
Strangely, I immediately thought that he looked like a “Rusty”. Blondish, rusty-red hair askew with the requisite rough scraggly beard, the same rust color with a little grey mixed in. He sported a well-worn navy blue down jacket, unbuttoned. The very, very short end of a lit, filtered cigarette dangled from the corner of his mouth, right hand gloved and the other bare and clutching a small Styrofoam cup of coffee, the kind they give out for free sometimes at the other diner down the street. His ruddy face was offset by eyes of sky blue, shining fairly brightly in the morning sunlight, although he squinted at me from his left one, either from the cigarette smoke trailing into it or maybe from recently waking with little or no sleep. His overall look suggested the latter to me.
He squinted at me, then right at the ATM card and saw where I was headed. He smiled with a nod. He slowed his walk just a bit. And then he spoke to me, his voice loud and gravelly.
“Hey, get some of that for me, too!”
I was talkative that morning and responded, following a couple steps behind him. “Aw, man, I’m sorry; I’ve barely got enough for myself.”
He kept on his walk, but turned back towards me, now both eyes squinting from looking directly into the low, morning sun.
“What’s that? That’s too bad.”
I answered. “Yeah, just a little short right now. Life’s been a little tough. But good luck to you.”
Then he stopped on the sidewalk. And then I stopped on the sidewalk. And, raising his Styrofoam cup to help make his point, he spoke loudly.
“Sorry to hear that, man. But listen, the next time I see you I really want you to tell me: ‘Man, LIFE IS GOOD! LIFE IS FABULOUS!’ Because you know what - It is.”
And he smiled at me once more and left me to take care of my business.
Now I wonder: Do you think his voice was so loud and clear because he wanted to make sure I heard him? I do. Lesson learned. And thank you, Rusty.