I don’t think it’ll surprise anyone to hear me say it’s been a rough year. For a lot of us. Me, I’ve been thinking about the future, which I’m usually pretty good at not thinking about, and it doesn’t always look pretty. When I’m feeling this way, I try to think about the good things, the ways in which I’m blessed, but it isn’t always easy.
There’s a guy who lives in my neighborhood, I see him usually at night when I’m outside of one of my local watering holes, or the other, or the other, other, chatting and having a cigarette. I don’t remember the first time I talked to him, but he does, because he usually brings up that first conversation and he always tells me what a nice person I am. I get the feeling that he doesn’t feel that way about everyone. I don’t know what his story is exactly, but it’s obvious that it’s not such a great one. I don’t ask him too many questions, mostly just how’s life kind of conversational ones, and I usually give him a cigarette, sometimes buy him some food, for which he is always grateful. He never asks me for anything.
Often when I’m talking to him, one or more of the people who are nearby make it clear from their lack of communication, and body language and such, that they don’t find his story sad or touching, more just irritating, and I can tell that he sees that in their demeanor.
Over Thanksgiving I was hanging at one of my local spots when the guy showed up while a few of us were outside going against the warnings of the health professionals. One of my friends told him to go in and get some food. He demurred and indicated that they didn’t like him going in. I offered to go in with him, he didn’t want to, said maybe he’d come back later. He did, not to get food, but to bring me a gift; it was pretty and it was kind.
Christmas Eve, of course, followed and I had a nice time hanging with friends and eating too many meatballs and playing Cards Against Humanity. Stopped for a nightcap on the way home and it was nice and warm and cozy and lovely to get hugs and Christmas greetings from people who, it is clear, are not just going through the motions, but are genuinely happy to see me. But still, I felt a bit melancholy, as I often am at Christmas, this year especially.
I happened to look out the window at one point just as aforementioned guy walked by. He looked in the window as he passed and the look on his face was so sad. I recognized the look. I think we all would. It was the look of the outsider, and my heart broke a little for him. Broke a lot actually.
When he thanks me for being kind, I always tell him that he’s never given me a reason not to be. But this isn’t a story about how I’m so wonderful and caring, and nice to a guy who nobody else is nice to, because I’m sure other people are, and when they aren’t, I think it’s entirely possible he’s given them reasons not to be. This is a story about remembering how it feels to be on the outside, and how, no matter how bad things seem, there are always folks who have it a lot worse. So, if you’re fortunate enough to have people who are happy to see you when they see you, to have a circle, to have love in your life, no matter what else you don’t have, you have a lot.
Hold on to that and here’s to a Happy New Year.