I went to the park. In the park I went for a walk. While walking I caught the eye of Mr. Ronald. He said, “How you doin’?” I looked to my left to see who was speaking so matter of fact to me. There, on the park bench, was a man I would spend a little more than an hour talking to as the sun shined gracefully and the wind gently brushed by.
At first sight of Mr. Ronald, he appeared to be a person of the nomadic, street life. As though the very bench he sat on also was where he slept at night. His dusty gray tresses seemed ungroomed, as they naturally curled, twisted, and tangled from the top of his head, around to his chin. And I believe, when he flashed his humble smile at me there were five teeth at the top and four at the bottom that probably have about two more good years left in them.
However, just as soon as Mr. Ronald inquired about my wellbeing, I stopped walking, looked him in the eye and warmly replied, “Hi, I’m well. How are you?” To which Mr. Ronald says, “Good. You like to read?” Not at all thrown off by what could be deemed as a random question, I replied, “Yes, I do.” Appearing pleased that I actually gave him my full attention, Mr. Ronald beckons for me to come closer, “Here, let me show you something.” As I stood there a little hesitant about what he was about to pull out of his reusable cloth sack, he ever so friendly, suggested I “Have a seat.” To which I complied, keeping about 3 feet of distance between us and my left leg taut, in case I needed to quickly run away at the sight of what Mr. Ronald pulls out of his bag.
As he pulled out a book, I became at ease and more interested in Mr. Ronald by the minute. He handed the book to me to take a glance. I perused the back cover and Forward of the book to see what it was about. The book was one that discusses personal awareness (mind, body, spirit) and how to connect to God through this awareness. Unbeknownst to Mr. Ronald he had handed me a book that falls in line with topics I like to read. I commented that the book seemed like an interesting read and expecting that the topic would be the next direction for our conversation, inquired if he had read it. Which he replied, “Not yet.” My reply, “Oh.”
As I handed the book back, Mr. Ronald asked, “You like that?” My reply, “Yes seems like an interesting read.” “Oh well check out this one,” he said, as he handed me another book. This time, one with a focus on the practice of Buddhism. Which I again skimmed the back cover and first few pages. Again I was in anticipation, waiting for Mr. Ronald to share with me something interesting about his book, as he deemed it worthy enough to share with a stranger. Yet again, Mr. Ronald asks “You like that one?” To which I replied, “Seems interesting.”
We continue this exchange of books about seven times, just for my anticipation of a thought provoking conversation to blossom about the books or various religions, yet for nothing of the sort to occur. Convinced that Mr. Ronald had shown me all of the books he was carrying that day I said, “You have all of these books on religion. Which do you practice?” To which he nonchalantly replied, “All of them.” I laughed, not expecting that answer. Mr. Ronald again asks me if I liked his books. Which I implied they seemed interesting but the first one about connecting to God peaked my interest the most. Without hesitation Mr. Ronald hands me the book to have. So many things about this one gesture made my day.
Mr. Ronald and I would share the rest of our time talking about each other’s residence, marital status, age, travel, family, and interest in jazz music. Onlookers and passersby would look intrigued at the interaction between he and I, probably noticing our age difference, Mr. Ron (67) and myself (26), as well as the differences in our outward appearances. A photographer even asked if he could take a picture. Having an appreciation for the art of life I agreed that he could.
As Mr. Ronald and I discussed our marital status, both single and never married without children, he encouraged me that my Mr. would come along soon; saying it in a way as if the next man who passes me by without asking me for my hand in marriage would be a fool. I thanked Mr. Ronald for his encouragement and certainty. Then he said something that struck a chord with me. Something that I thought was profound and now deem it as the climax of our interaction. “Or, your husband may be inside of you.” Initially, I thought this man is missing a few marbles. But as what he said sunk in for a few seconds, it made a lot of sense. “You mean, I need to manifest him?” I asked. “Yes, and he may not be an actual person but is in you.” Impressed and perplexed at the same time I nodded in agreement with the theory. As I was analyzing the theory in my mind, Mr. Ronald then goes on to say, “I’d ask you to marry me if I thought I had a chance.” I chuckled and smiled.
I enjoyed my time shared with Mr. Ronald and he likewise. We’ve all been told to not judge a book by its cover, meaning something(or someone) may appear a certain way yet be much more or completely different from your initial perceptions. Mr. Ronald, the man in the park with a bag of books may be misunderstood at the looks of him, but within him was something beautiful, something fresh, something…..human. Having the audacity to sit on a park bench, afforded me a memorable interaction with a stranger.
For you, it may have been a bus stop or a grocery store aisle. Maybe a passer-by said but a few words to you, but those words resonated with you somehow. What’s your story of how you had the audacity to “sit on a park bench.?”