On my way to work this morning, I was in the final stretch before reaching the office. The street I was on is wide — four, maybe five lanes across in places. Traffic is never lacking, and the squealing of brakes can usually be heard a few times a day as drivers’ defensive skills are put to the test.
In the midst of the hustle and chaos, one man stood on the side of the road.
He was tall, his jacket was filthy, his hair and beard were scraggly and he had a fixed stare on something in the distance behind all of us who passed him.
I almost didn’t notice him with everything else going on around me…buses stopping, cars pulling out of driveways, cars pulling into driveways, cars blocking intersections, cars merging without looking.
But just before I drove past him, I saw him leaning against a telephone pole. His right hand emerged from his sleeve; his index and pinky fingers were up, while his middle and ring fingers were being held down by his thumb. He was making the “rock on” sign, the “sign of the horns,” whatever you want to call it. His stare was unwavering. I didn’t see him blink. I don’t know where he was, but he wasn’t fully present.
As someone who often flashes the “rock on” fingers both in the middle of the day at work, and sometimes to nobody in particular except myself, say, when I celebrate a personal victory, I did not see horns. I saw a weirdly encouraging bit of inspiration from a stranger who probably could’ve used his own helping.
I don’t know how long he’d been standing there, nor do I know how long he remained there after I passed him. I don’t know how many other drivers noticed him, and of those who did, I don’t know how many gave him anymore thought throughout the day.
But I thought about him all afternoon, and was thankful for seeing him this morning. I don’t know if he knew what he was doing or what his intentions were, but he was somehow a constant reminder to be grateful for both the smallest blessings and our biggest issues in life. Being aware of the good and the bad can help us to rock on with balance, perspective and humility.