I met a funny old man today. Our meeting was peculiar for a number of reasons, not the least of which was finding him standing in line for a sub with two diet pepsis tucked under one arm. It’s odd to see anyone on campus outside of the 18-25 range, unless they’re wearing the sub shop uniform.
He had exactly six teeth on his bottom jaw, with big gaps in between, and none that I could tell on top. He was affably greeting students when I walked up to get into line, making his white whips of hair dance up and down as he bobbed his head. As I approached, he offered with a gallant wave of his arm that I stand in line ahead of him. No one else seemed to be paying him much mind, so as I stepped up he proceeded to tell me (with great animation) all that was wrong with the government. Given his lack of teeth he was a little difficult to understand, but we managed. We mutually agreed the only thing to do was to trust God. When he finally toddled off, I found myself smiling after him a little self consciously. In addition to all, he was hard of hearing and I had been yelling for the past twenty minutes to keep the conversation going.
I look at encounters with people much the way I do walks. Intrinsically, both can be beautiful, dusty, pleasant, or rather soggy. Some are mandatory, others a choice. They can be short, or drag on and on without an end in sight. Regardless of anything we think or feel, we will inevitably end up walking–and encountering other humans–on this odd little planet we call home. Ultimately, these encounters are what we make of them. I say this because that was what I was stuck thinking about on the bus with my sub. That is, paths and people and how I’ve always liked the former very much and been a little wary of the latter. A year ago, I would have been too immature and awkward to carry on a conversation with the peculiar old man–and I would have missed out. There’s a lot to be said for forgetting about yourself for a while and just talking to the people around you. I’ve been blown off several times, like the old man was ignored by my peers. He seemed pretty unperturbed though, and I’m learning to take it in stride myself. It seems lessons come from folks in all walks of life.