After spending the last several nights working in the office until late in the evening, I was eager to start work early this morning. I was determined to be here at the same time as everyone else despite my long commute, but after a series of frustrating set backs I was left far behind schedule. Rolling up to my office at 9:30 I was embarrassed about how late I was going to be strolling in while we have such a big project due soon.
I gathered my things into my hands and prepared to go inside. But as I stepped out of my car, I was approached from behind by a man in a Carhartt snow suit. I was aware of him, but didn’t look up, so he politely called for my attention and quickly rattled off his story. He said he didn’t have a ride to work this morning, and he needed to get to the IHOP down the road so he could wash dishes.
I stood frozen for a moment, poised half stride, half listening, half ignoring. Wanting to leave this man to someone else. Wondering what his scam was, or what his real motives were. I looked up at my office, the lights on, people already busily working. I considered the report I had to write and the deadlines I had to meet, and how I was already running behind. I even thought about my little girls at home that waited every night for their daddy to come back, but he doesn’t because he’s too busy and can’t get ahead of things. I just need to get ahead of things, so my life can begin again. I wanted to explain all of this to the man. Or not. I wanted to just wave my hand and apologize and hope he would just understand anyway. A part of me even wanted to shout at him about how I couldn’t even keep my own life on track, and I definitely didn’t have time to help him with his. But I couldn’t do it. I turned back to the dishwasher and with a private sigh, I offered him the ride.
As I drove him to his work we had a brief conversation about life. It turns out we had very similar childhoods in very similar parts of the state. Nothing remarkable, but enough to convince me that he wasn’t a threat to me in any way. Just genuinely a man down on his luck with a broke down car, washing dishes for food.
But when we pulled up to the IHOP something remarkable did happen. As he started to leave he turned and shook my hand and while staring directly into my eyes he proceeded to quote from the book of Ecclesiastes.
This is what he said:
“Remember your Creator
in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
and the years approach when you will say,
“I find no pleasure in them”—
Remember him -before the silver cord is severed,
and the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
and the wheel broken at the well,
and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.
“Everything is meaningless!”
I thanked him. He thanked me. And I drove away quietly. Nearly twelve hours later I’m still sitting in my office, working on a report, with little girls waiting for me somewhere, with a patient wife I don’t deserve, working on infinite deadlines, hardly able to even remember the situation I had with this man so long ago. the memory already nearly lost in the commotion of my mind and the electric static of my desire to move ahead. Complete. Accomplish. Achieve.
I’m afraid all the devil needs to do is give me fancy shoes and a treadmill and I stoop so far I forget there are stars.