You may have heard the saying “I once cried the blues because I had no shoes – then on the street, I met a man with no feet.” This simple saying has great implications as to the appreciation we should all have for the simple treasures that we DO have in our lives. For me, this saying brings with it a memory and a true story of greater meaning.
It was a hectic weekday and I was in the midst of a typical workday in my former career as a Realtor/Contractor. It was already 2pm and I had not had time to enjoy a moment of rest – let alone a lunch break. I recall thinking “where’d the day go?” as I contemplated how I was possibly going to finish all of the tasks on my ‘to-do’ list for the day. I also came to the realization that I wouldn’t have time to sneak in an afternoon run and would have to wait until the evening to do a quick gym workout. I had a dozen or so people in my employ working on multiple projects and contracts. Their productivity fueled the success of the company which required my constant attention and focus. My phone was blowing up as usual with one situation after another that demanded my attention and energy. I was texting a client to let them know I would be late to a meeting due to a previous meeting that ran over because that client was late. My day was reeling out of control.
Then suddenly I had the realization that I had no idea how I had just driven the last couple of miles or so. I pulled up to a three-way intersection - and as I heeded the stop sign in front of me, I wondered if I had done the same through the last few (dozen) intersections. Wow – I realized that I was absolutely in no state of mind to be driving. I might as well have been drunk. My mind was way too convoluted to focus on any one particular thing – especially something as important as driving. I put the phone down and returned my focus to the steering wheel and the intersection in front of me. My only option was to make a left on Cary Street - the one-way street at which the road I was on dead-ended into. Before I checked to see if there were any cars coming to my right, I experienced a life-changing sight on the other side of the street.
There is a homeless man who lives in Richmond, VA. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to see a homeless person on a city street in Richmond; however, this individual is different. He is an African-American male probably in his fifties with long dreadlocked hair. He has no legs from the knees down and lives in a wheelchair along with all of his possessions. I’d seen him many times before, but today’s encounter was different. In the instant in which I looked across the street, he looked up from folding some clothes in his lap and made eye contact with me – and then smiled – from ear to ear.
The previous waking hours of that day had flown by in a chaotic whirlwind, but that few seconds of eye contact and smile from the legless homeless man lasted from that moment years ago until now – and will continue to stay fresh in my mind for many more years to come. In an instant, that man changed my mindset and my course of action that day – and for thousands of days to come.
I put on my blinker, checked for oncoming traffic, made my left turn and glanced over my right shoulder one more time to give a smile back to him. I then made another left, circled the block and headed home instead of to my next meeting and jobsite. When I got home, I sent one group text to my other appointments and cancelled the rest of my meetings that day. I then sent a text to my project managers and foremen and told them I would be unavailable the rest of the day and to conduct business accordingly. I then turned off my phone. I changed into my favorite pair of shorts and t-shirt and then strapped on my running shoes.
I ran for miles down Monument Avenue that beautiful early fall day. I easily exceeded my usual 3.5 mile route without even breaking a sweat, so I kept going. When I finally got back home, I estimated I had run 8 to 10 miles at an extraordinary pace, but was hardly out of breath. I then treated myself to an afternoon dip in my back yard hot tub. As I soaked in the hot, bubbly water, I reached down and massaged my legs. I wiggled my toes and flexed my feet. A great sense of appreciation filled my entire body as I thanked the Universe for my legs and my ability to run, walk, wear shoes and all of the simple treasures that come with a healthy, normal body.
You see, my rationale is that the homeless man saved my legs – and possibly my life. Had I not seen him for that moment and had he not caught my attention with his smile, I may not have changed my course that day. In my haste and stressful state I may have run a stop sign and hurt or killed someone – or myself. I could have easily been the legless one.
As I sat relaxing in the hot tub, I reflected on my experience and lesson that day. I resolved to never let stress or other peoples’ demands and agendas dominate my life. By turning my attention and focus to myself, I have lived a happier, healthier, more successful life and now have more energy, vitality, love and experiences to share with the rest of the world.
For months and months, I looked for the homeless man so that I could stop and thank him for the experience he gave me. I have since moved to Florida, but the memory of that man and my life-changing moment has stuck with me. It is amazing how much one moment and one complete stranger can impact your life. Now, I strive to return the favor by positively impacting the lives of many other people.