I was walking in the park today, kind of in a hurry to get home after my brief respite in the park when I saw an older gentleman sitting on a bench. He was wearing an Irish-looking cap and a nice shirt and pants. I wondered if he was lonely. He reminded me of my grandpa, who is always looking for people to say hi to him or to visit with him for a while. So as I passed by, I paused and said hello to this man on the bench, and after his return greeting and some idle chit-chat about the weather -- sure enough -- he engaged me in deeper conversation. I was a little eager to get home, but recognized his desire for company and relented, allowing myself to be present in this moment.
"Sit down for a bit, why don't you," he offered at last. "I can tell you some stories."
So sit I did. I could tell it made him happy. It was almost as good as sitting with my grandpa.
He talked about how the neighborhood had changed, how if he wasn't smart with his money he would be destitute now since the rents have risen so much. He brought up how important going to mass has been for him and how his family is all gone now, save a son who lives upstate. He talked about the old days working in the post office and how now there's not much to do. He wishes he could be more useful. They asked him to speak at some post office event, but felt he would have nothing to say of interest. I disagreed with him, but it was irrelevant. He thought he had nothing to say, but talk and talk he did.
He asked me very little and could hear even less. (Maybe the two were connected). Most of my comments seemed unnecessary intrusions, so I mostly listened and nodded. I let go of the clock and the to-do list relentlessly forming in my head and just sat with another human being who wanted companionship. And not even for all that long! It wasn't that much to ask after all. We're always in such a hurry, especially in New York. Maybe we need to take more time for those who want a little slice of our time. Just maybe.
I listened and smiled and thought of my grandpa and hoped someone was sitting with him at this moment, spending time with him and providing some company. He also has things to say.
And then, finally, at some lull in the conversation, my day's activities weighing on me, I mentioned I should get going.
"Yes, yes, of course. Well, if you see me sittin' 'ere again, say hello. It was nice to talk to you."
I assured him I would.
Some things he told me and asked me to remember:
1. Save money.
2. Praise the Lord.
3. Keep a sense of humor.
4. Don't smoke or drink: "Look at my teeth! I still got 'em! It's because I never smoked or drank!"
5. Slow down. Life goes by quickly.
...sage advice from an old Irish man.