I try not to judge people at first sight, but at times it is difficult not to especially if he has a long beard and shabby clothes.
As children, we were taught to not speak to strangers and to stay away from vagabonds.
We learned how important it was to make a great first impression.
My character prevented me from listening to such nonsense. That is why I probably got into trouble most of the time.
I believe that there is a story behind every person I meet. I feel so sorry when I bump into someone that is having a hard time.
I start wondering why they ended up in the slums sleeping on cardboard boxes and drinking their life away – or why they stand there in the cold wind asking for a couple of dollars.
Well, here’s a story about a 70-year-old man. I often bumped into him standing outside the mall. He held a cardboard box in his trembling hands with a note, ‘Please give this old guy a few cents to pay his bills.’
He was a strange character, but the twinkle in his eyes captured my attention. The first time I saw him, it was just a few weeks before the Christmas holidays. He looked poorer than a church mouse. He had a long gray beard, and the Santa Claus hat was way too big for his tiny head. He leaned against a crutch. He wore worn faded blue jeans that hung loosely over his hips, a checkered shirt and old working boots.
I dropped a few coins in his box, smiled, and then went Christmas shopping.
The next week I saw him again, he was in front of me in line at the bank. The teller was counting his change. This guy had a bag full of coins he was cashing in. I figured well, good for him.
A few months later, he popped into our machine shop asking for scraps of steel. He needed them to build something at home, a trailer, or something for the firewood he cut. I didn’t mention to him that I had seen him begging at the mall that winter. I didn’t want to embarrass him.
We gave him the scrap steel which we cut to size for him. He pulled out a few coins from his pocket to pay, but we shook our heads saying they were just a few pieces of scrap. He came back many times after that. He would trade dried slices of delicious wild mushrooms that we love in exchange for the steel. On other occasions he would bring us cherries, he had picked from his garden.
We became friends, and he invited me to his place to pick my strawberries to make jam. He had a problem with one of his legs and had a hard time bending down on his knees. He showed me the large scar on his calf he got from a chainsaw accident. I found out later that he was a lumberjack among other things.
He had a small home in the woods, a vegetable garden with fruit trees. A massive dog named Rocky that I wouldn’t trust if Pablo weren’t around. You could tell the old man was lonely and that he loved his dog.
He invited me in for coffee. There was a little golden plate hanging outside the door with the names Pablo and Rocky engraved on it, how sweet I thought.
It was an old rambling house. He explained how he had recuperated old furniture people had thrown out to furnish his home. He cooked his meals from scrap even for the dog. He told me he once worked on ships in his youth and never married.
To make a living, he sold firewood and his veggies and little pots with bedding plants such as zucchini and strawberries. There were loads of them in the greenhouse he had built using old planks of wood and plastic.
In the backyard, there was a bathtub on wheels in the sunshine. It was filled with clear water. I asked if he had cattle or something. No. He left the bathtub in the sun to heat the water so he could take a bath. Wow! A bathtub on wheels, ingenious.
Although people in town spoke poorly about Pablo, I found him to be the most unique and sincere person I’ve ever met in a long time.
I wrote this in remembrance of Pablo that passed away a few years ago.
This Christmas try to look beyond one’s appearance and put yourself in their shoes before judging.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year full of joy and peace.