The man sat on the bench in front of the Wal-Mart checkout lanes. I thought he was waiting on someone, but he wasn’t. He was just sitting and watching for a minute.
He was obviously a working man, about 65ish, and had a day-old shave. He was a bit chubby, but not flat out fat. He had draped a couple of plastic bags of items he just bought over his blue jeans. He wore work cowboy boots and a free blood donation T-shirt.
His face was confident, like he knew he could pretty much handle anything that happened on the outside. His eyes, however, looked like his heart had been, or maybe still was, wounded. His eyes looked like muddy, shallow puddles instead of a deep, free flowing fresh water wells.
He got up and started for the exit limping with a distinct, weathered limp. Who knows why, but I suspect his limp was from a rugged injury such as a car accident, oilfield work injury, or getting his leg pinned against a chute while dealing with cows.He parked close to the front and unlocked his old, clean, two color Ford F150 pickup. He rolled down the driver side window as soon as got in and fired up the old bucket of metal and bolts before slowly driving away.
Tonight, he’ll cook the rolled-up pound of ground beef and pop the can to bake the roll of biscuits he had in his shopping bag. He’ll shovel jelly on his biscuits, not with a spoon, but a fork, and smear strings of clumped jelly onto thick butter pads he had just added. He’ll watch a meaningless TV show until he slowly drops into an unrested, toss and turn sleep.
Tomorrow he’ll get up and go to work, talk with co-workers about the news and weather, and maybe even cut up a bit during lunch break. But tomorrow night, tomorrow he’ll dig out more shreds of jelly with a fork to spread on his white bread peanut butter sandwich, before watching TV again until he drifts off to an uneasy sleep.
Maybe he’ll think of his hurts, problems and mistakes, but if he does, he’ll cram it back down inside his heart’s cellar where it’s easier and safer than to take a chance of emotional pain.
The next time you’re at the store, look for this guy.
He’s the widow carefully checking her coupons. He’s the frazzled, young woman in a hurry with a buggy full of kids. He’s the confused teenage boy with green hair and big spacers in his ears. He’s the businessman who lives in the richest neighborhood in town, but is emotionally poor behind his front door.
You won’t see a sign flashing “Help Wanted” above the door of their heart, but nonetheless, it’s hanging, albeit underneath a curtain they’ve used to cover it up.
Look for him. Look for her. They’re there, and sure could use a smile.