The harsh, bitterly cold wind blew past the figure of a man huddled on a park bench. Shaking his head he didn't know whether to sit here and freeze or move on trying to survive another day. Taking a large lungful of the frigid air, a sigh escaped his lips, he'd given up hope, his life was in the toilet. Thinking back he decided that it must be his fault, he felt that no matter what, it was his fault. You see, he was a kind and gentle man who always tried to do for others, oh sure he had his faults didn't we all but in general most people saw him as a good man.
He was the type of friend that you might go to for advise but never really took it, no matter how good it was. He'd make you laugh, talking about anything but him self, funny but that's what drew people to him. He wasn't completely unselfish no one can truly claim to be unselfish, though he wasn't too far from it. Two bad marriages late in life still hadn't damped his generous spirit, though it had served to press them down a bit. He was a good pretender, not many knew the pain he held inside from the world, from his self but a wondrous thing about him no matter how much pain, he always tried to have a smile, rare indeed.
Our story started this day though was deep seeded in his past, you see I had noticed him many times though out the years. He had done quite a few things that others would consider dumb, stupid or just plain crazy, giving the last few dollars in his pocket to help a man who was hungry living on the streets. Giving a crying child a stuffed animal from a claw machine that the child just couldn't quite get, (he was good at it) even though he didn't have the money to spare. His wife had been degrading and nothing but negative towards him to the point that he knew that no matter what he did he'd fail and she'd be right there to tell him what a failure he was.
He'd taken her advise and gone for some off shore training, something about under water evacuation from a crashed flying transport. He'd become trapped but got out; the experience changed him you might say opened his eyes. When he told her he'd almost died, her only response had been so? That was the last he could take, packing a few of his things he left, of course she was yelling at him (when wasn't she) that he was immature but he just couldn't take anymore. He had no plan being spur of the moment, he walked for miles before he realized how far he'd gotten, for a few days he was ok, then he was told by a friend that he'd been fired from the convenience store he'd worked at.
They say that when you're at your lowest, you find out who your true friends are, no one wanted to help him, talk to him yes but help no, or they just weren't able to. Alone and depressed, we are now where he had sat on the bench deciding that he was done, no point in trying any more. I knew that this night, was the point in time that he was meant to be at, the point our paths would cross and I could finally reward him for all his kindness. The weather reports had mentioned snow all day but as so far there'd been nothing. The man looked up at the sky his unshaven face having felt the first flake of snow fall on it. Smiling he thought to his self perfect, just lay down and go to sleep no more worries.
Now was the time, I rushed forward and stood before the man, "You know I don't think this was the plan for you."
"Huh? Oh hello sir, I'm sorry if I'm taking up the whole bench, here let me clear off a place for you to sit," with that he sat up and moved his few meager possessions over to one side. Just like him to think of another even when he was contemplating suicide. Taking his hand I shook it vigorously, "I've seen you from time to time," I said, "Thought you'd be at home preparing for Christmas."
Sadly he shook his head, a stray brown curl escaping his toboggan hat, "Not this year, the kids are all grown, the spirit has left this body, you know I used to love Christmas," a huge sigh escaped his dry, chapped lips again, "with everything that has happened I lost it, now I feel that the world would be better if I just faded away, one less mistake it has to correct."
Though not a violent man this one time I actually wanted to slap the man and wake him up to all the good he'd done but unfortunately I'd have knocked him unconscious and still not accomplished what I was here for. "Wow," I said, "That has to be the biggest crock of bull shit I've heard in a long time!" The man could only stare at me, I was a little surprised my self I don't like to swear but it seems it was the only thing to do to get his attention.
His mouth still agape, I grabbed his hand and we were off! Stopping at a church we walked in seeing a few of the people that he'd worked with. "Why are we h... ," he started.
"Shhhh," I said, "Just listen."
Many of the people were in prayer, the thing was, most of the prayers were about the man next to me. The man's face was in shock when he heard them asking god to watch over him, that he was a good man and they were worried about him. It wasn't nearly as shocking though than when his boss walked in and bowed to pray, she hadn't wanted to fire him but unfeeling, uncaring corporate had told her to, as they put it, terminate him. Hell the entire store had almost quit but they still needed their jobs so of course that hadn't happened.
"You see? They do care they are just shackled by the wants and needs of their own families," I said though I knew that this wouldn't really fix the problem.
Leaving we walked the now snow accumulating walkways, heading a few blocks up from the church we stopped in front of a rather large house. The front door was open so I led him directly in, a little girl was crying on the floor holding the same stuffed toy that the man had given her back at the claw machine. The parents could be heard arguing in the bedroom their voices louder than you'd hear in a pleasant conversation. Covering her ears with a couch pillow the little girl hugged the stuffed animal tighter to her small chest.
"Why can't mommy and daddy be as kind as the man who gave me this?" Kissing the toy again her tear stained eyes looked into the bead eyes of the toy, "I wish mommy and daddy would stop fighting and just love each other again."
From the bedroom there was sudden quiet, then the two were apologizing to each other, when they walked out they scooped the little girl up and covered her face with kisses, "We're sorry honey," they both stated, "let's say we go out and look for a few presents?" With a huge smile she shook her head vigorously.
We left there and continued walking down the street, "Wait a minute!" the man stopped to say, "why didn't they see us?"
"Well," I started, "you see we weren't really there not in a physical sense."
"WHAT!?" he shouted. "then I'm dead?"
"Oh no, not dead though you might say that for now your body is out of order and your mind, like a computer program, is somewhere else," I had to chuckle I was used to this, having done it a few times.
"So ... what? I'm a ghost? A spirit?' He asked a little befuddled
"Uummmm in a sense yes but remember your body is still alive," I answered. With that we were whisked away to another town, where his oldest son was rereading a text the man had sent earlier, his son's face held love for the man who wasn't his biological father but was the only real dad he'd ever known. The man read over his son's shoulder 'Dad I know what mom has been doing to you, I know that you still love her but as bad as she was to you I was surprised you hadn't left her sooner. I know it sucks to be alone but remember you've always been there for me and I love you for that'.
The man's eyes filled with tears he'd always tried to be a good dad it hadn't been easy, hell at times impossible but he'd never given up on his children, though he had been sure they'd given up on him a long time ago. Suddenly the man and I were whisked away to another home, the shock and anger was all I needed to see that we were in the place I had aimed for. His daughter was holding her son, "Sooner or later we'll find your grandpa so he can see how big you've gotten!" the baby turned his head and looked straight at the man smiling the baby reached as well as it could towards him cooing.
"Can he see me?" the man asked me.
"Why yes he can," I answered.
"But you said th... ," he stumbled over his words.
"That they can't see us yes, but the baby is a pure soul they can always see what adults call spirits or nonsense things of childhood, oh so many have forgotten unlike you," I said the shock apparent on his face, "yes I know, you have the sight or as we call it belief in what is there but most refuse to see."
"I've had it for a long time, most of my life I never say anything, I had a nervous break once and I don't want to go back to that place ever again." he whispered.
"Don't worry that's not why I'm here," I said, "I'm just here to put you back on the right path, that is when you can see it."
"The right path, uh huh the right path for what? As I see it my whole life has been a failure," he spat out.
"It's not the right path for something, it's just the path that you WERE walking but got sidelined," I said trying to keep his hopes up.
"Ok so I did a few good things in my life, what's the point?" he again bitterly spat out.
"The point is you are not as you put it a waste of space, a useless human being, something and not someone, a something that only deserves to be punished," I patiently told him. "You have many gifts that you haven't used til now, I know you love to write but you haven't for over twenty years you have an imagination that few have, and even fewer act upon."
.... There is more of this story ...