Posted by: whereisthecommonsense | January 20, 2013

A Kind Old Soul

Thanks to a friend for reminding me of a kindly old soul that is no longer with us, save for my memory and in the memory of many others. I lived in a small town for years and was acquainted with an old black gentleman that everyone who lived there, or passed through regularly, would see this man walking around the town. John was his name and we should all be like him in many ways.

I will never forget my first meeting of John. I was in college working in an office supply store after classes. I had just arrived at work one day and was busying my self doing some shelf dusting and straightening as there were no customers in the store. A moment later in walks John. I had seen him before, but only in passing. He went straight for an end cap that had a display of colorful pens. The display had a pad of paper attached to it and he began to doodle with several of the pens. After a while of this, I offered to buy one of the pens for him. John just looked at me for a second, and said; “no thank you sir, I don’t know what I would do with it.” I at once felt badly, as even now, I am not sure but think he must have been illiterate. But, before he left, he made sure to let me know in his quiet way that I shouldn’t feel bad, after I had apologized to him if I had made him uncomfortable. Thereafter, John would only come to the big windows at the store front, but not come in. Even when I would go out and invite him to the pen display. One could not help but like this fellow. And, many in this small town did.

Too many, though, looked down on John as if he was simply not company that they would keep. Too busy, maybe, to take the time to learn otherwise. Who knows their reasoning. John never bothered anyone. He never asked for money, he never said an unkind word (or spoke much), and had an ever-present – though very slight – smile, with just a wisp of a mustache. Always the smile. He was always dressed in blue jeans and what I call a plaid shirt with long sleeves. Even in summer. His shirt was always clean with a crease down the sleeve, and rolled up just so. His jeans, never faded, were always crisp and he had a peculiar habit of buying them way too long. (Always wished I had asked him why he did that.) He rolled, perfectly I will add, the extra length of cuffs of his jeans up to where they were at least five or so inches tall, with the bottom of the roll touching his boots. His boots were nearly always looking as if he kept them polished. There were many times I would give John a ride to some part of town if he was so inclined. The ride was usually mostly silent as John didn’t talk very much, at least not around me. Just the usual “how are you John” – “I’m fine sir” – “thank you” – “thank you, John.” I’d let him off where ever he wished (it was never far) and he would continue on his walk. Some would say that John “was not all there”, but I suspect he was more “there” than most of us.

Again, always pleasant, ever the smile. A few years ago John passed, and while it was rumored before, it was confirmed later that John was a veteran of the Korean War and may have suffered an injury there that affected him in later life, the latter part I am unfortunately not as sure. At his death, the town in large number, turned out to give him a funeral, and someone even made sure he had a proper headstone. Such was the effect that this simple old soul had on many of us. I always had an affection for John, as his smile, his countenance, were somewhat infectious. I can still see him walking, but in a better place, looking down – and smiling.

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