Warning: Dangerous Old Men

old men 2

I was sitting with a friend today, at a bookstore cafe.  As we sat there discussing life and future endeavors for this year, a man approached.  We were unaware of his presence until he began talking to an older woman behind us.  The brief interaction between the two was disturbing.  The man, who was probably in his mid 60’s to early 70’s, was standing outside of a railing that separated the cafe from the bookstore.  He was holding a coffee in one hand and what looked like a child’s gift in the other.  His face was weathered and his clothes a little muffed.  Altogether adorable.

The woman on the other side of the partition, was sitting three tables over from the railing where the man stood.   Smiling face, arms full of gifts and coffee.  She had her book propped up on a stand for easier reading.  Quite frankly after the incident, the stand annoyed me.  Who needs a stand to read a book?  Feels pretentious to me. (Although I probably only feel this way because her actions angered me.)  The scene that quickly unfolded made my blood pressure rise.

Only a few moments before I had looked over at this man as he was sitting one table over from my friend and I.  We made eye contact.  He smiled and shrugged.  An expression that made me think that he thought I was looking for something.  He knew it wasn’t him, so he made a friendly interaction with me.  I thought he was adorable.  This is probably part of the reason that the next few moments made me so infuriated.  In my life I have had multiple interactions with numerous people.  Many from all different walks of life.  And one thing I knew was this man was completely harmless, with a kind sense of humor and a joy for life.

So what happens next as this harmless man is standing next to the railing?  He says to the “book stand” lady something about her resembling a women on the book cover just a few aisles over.  All the while smiling.  It made him look years younger.  You could almost see the boy inside.   “Book stand” lady quickly dismisses him.  She makes this rude expression on her face and makes a hasty 90’s “talk to the hand” motion.  Saying something about just leaving her alone.  This action made her seem years older.  Perhaps like a nasty school marm that chastises small boys for simply being boys.

"I said SILENCE!"

“I said SILENCE!”

Her “chastisement” of course draws the attention of the store manager.  Funny how people are so quick to judge.  The manager then intervenes, although the man was already turning to walk away.

The man says to the manager, “I was just telling her how she looks like the lady on the book cover over there.” The manager says, very patronizingly, “That’s fine, but you can’t scare the customers.”  At that the man looks hurt and confused and says, “Scare the customers?”  He walks away.  By this time the “book stand” lady’s friend returns and they begin a 10 minute dialogue about this sweet man.  The manager rushes off to make sure this man doesn’t bother anyone else.

At this point my friend and I look at each other, anger registering on both of our faces.  She says, “I am going to find him and talk to him.” I say, “Good idea.”  I would have gone too, but didn’t want to leave our valuables sitting there with such “dangerous” people in the store.  Anything can happen, you know? I mean according to the lady she was “scared” of this man.  Insinuating that she felt like she was in danger.  It must be true!

As I sat and listened to continuing comments between the two ladies, the manager returns and says she can’t find him, and the discourse between “book stand” lady, her friend, and the manager continue.   (Seriously? Did anyone really feel intimidated by this man? You’d think he was a suspect in a murder) The lady soon changes her tune and says that she knows the man probably didn’t mean any harm, he probably just wanted someone to talk to, but he scared her.  My brow furrowed even deeper.

My friend returned at this point.  She said, “I found him.  His name is Bob.  He is here looking for a present for his 6 year old granddaughter.  I told him that he had done nothing wrong and that he shouldn’t feel bad.”  Bob had responded, “I was wondering what I did to scare people. Wanna see the book I was talking about?”  My friend said, “Yes.”  He showed her the book.  The likeness was close I guess.

I told my friend, “I don’t think this woman knows what to be scared of.  Scary would have been someone walking in the door with a gun. Not, Bob.”

We both sat there more aware than ever at the disservice that we do to people.  There was nothing threatening happening.  However, somehow an old man attains almost “Criminal” status, warning posters are printed and hung on walls, and staff are alerted to a “problem customer” all because of one person’s over friendliness.   Granted, I fabricate some, but truly, what are we so afraid of?  Why can’t we talk to a stranger, or allow a stranger to interact with us? Without fear? Without reservations? Without feelings of being “rudely interrupted.”

Everyone has a desire to to be loved and noticed.  And yet we isolate ourselves by stero-typing our neighbors.  I’m not advocating that you talk to strangers in KNOWN dangerous areas, but a bookstore? Surrounded by people?  In broad daylight?  When the stranger is frail and obviously over 65?  I wouldn’t pin him on a “Most Wanted” poster.

It left my friend and I wondering what we miss out on in life because of our fears.  But more than that, WHO  we miss out on.  Call me crazy, probably most people do, but I will continue to talk to the person behind me in line, the person next to me on a plane, and the homeless guy on the street corner.  Because all of them represent God’s children.  Bob is God’s child too.  And I never want to have to look God in the face and tell him, because I was afraid I loved His children less.

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
Matthew 25:40

Take Risk My Friend.

BH&T

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The Hero’s Nemesis

Some thoughts to help you face your fears, friends.

treehousedreamer

the sheildI sat today with a dear friend sharing our mutual love of super hero movies. Her favorite was Spiderman, mine was Captain America. It was a brief conversation but a thought provoking one. We discussed the attributes that we admired in each hero and compared their lists of villains. It was fun to imagine what it would look like to swap the characters. How might Thor fair against the genius of Dr. Octopus? Or how might Spidey handle facing a frost giant?

As we chatted it dawned on me. In each comic the villain is designed to accentuate the strengths of the hero. Perhaps this is an elementary thought but it had not been something I had paused to ponder.  Wolverine vs Sabertooth, Captain America vs Red Skull, Thor vs Loki, Hulk vs Abomination, Batman vs Joker, Professor X vs Magneto, etc.  Characters that are physical have physical opponents. Intelligence…

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I Wanna See You be Brave

Happy New Year!

I have been paralyzed lately by the fear of writing, and therefore have not posted since December.  I am beginning to move my stiff fingers again though, and am beginning to address the source of my paralysis.  Fear.  If you are human, you have experienced fear in your lifetime.  That feeling of anxiety that arises as you try to perform some task.  Usually a task that you enjoy very much.  For me it’s writing.  For others it is a myriad of other activities: music, art, sports, cooking, performing, computer programing, or teaching.  The list is as long as there are people in this world.

Yet, too often, and more often than we care to admit, we allow fear to dominate the things that we love.  We stop participating in areas that we love, because we fear that we are not good enough, or we fear that others will judge us, or we fear that it’s not making any difference so why try.  I have struggled with all three lies at different junctures in my life.  Recently I let all three gang up on me and my love for the written word.

But there is something powerful in making your own contribution to the world.  A certain “sparkle” or “sheen” that only you can bring.  Like a color palette.  Imagine everyone as a different shade or hue.  And I do mean EVERYONE.  That means there are billions of colors floating around out there.  Now perhaps someone doesn’t appreciate the hue that you bring, now, but there are many who may someday.  Your color can change an entire landscape.  Like when a printer is low on magenta.  Nothing in the picture turns out quite right.  It’s still a picture, but something is missing.  That’s you in your own sphere of influence.

It’s so easy to let our lives become tainted with lies. To let our color fade.  We start believing the lies that our lives really aren’t that important.  We can’t make a difference.  So why bother?  I believe that our egos are a little bit of what can help push us on towards greatness.  When they are injured or bruised, we take a second look at why we failed, and if we choose to be brave enough we get back up and we try again.  No success ever came without failure.  In fact I would be so bold as to say that failure is the grandmother of success.

Which brings me back to my earlier dilemma.  Fear.  Fear is the antithesis of everything that you will ever want to do in your life.  It will hunt down and try to drown every dream, passion, creative genius, or hope that you will ever have.  Sometimes blatantly, and sometimes in a little whisper.  A voice says, “Don’t even bother, someone else can do it better than you. You should just let go of that dream.  Be reasonable and spend your resources on things that are “sure things,” don’t be a fool.  No one wants to look foolish.”  But the reality is, this country was built, in fact humanity was built, on the backs of such “fools.”  And I am so glad that these “foolish heros” never gave in to those dream killing whispers. Sometimes it’s important to be foolish.

But something else was “whispered” to me this year. A voice saying, “I wanna see you be BRAVE.”  Well actually it wasn’t whispered.  Rather is was sung into my ears while sitting in the Denver airport.    And already in the first 2 weeks of 2013 I have seen why God would whisper/sing this to me.  Because everything that I dream of doing or becoming, balances on my ability to acknowledge my fears and push past them.   My courage to look those lies in the eye and smile.  Fear is simply a learned attribute and it can be unlearned.  I want to write my dreams over top of my fears and let them take me higher.  Let them fuel the fire of my dreams.  So when I hear, “Why are you doing this?  It’s never going to matter.  You’ll only ever be a single, tiny drop.”  I can respond, “Well, oceans are made up of such drops as I.”

I hope you’ll join me.

Dream bigger. Fight harder.  Be Braver.

BH&T