It was more of a daydream than anything else. He was just there, looking so familiar I seized the moment and said, “Hi. Are you who I think you are?”
He smiled, shrugged his face and said, “That’s an insightful question. I probably am who you think I am, at least for the most part.” He seemed ordinary enough, wiry, bearded, with a warm face and the deepest eyes I ever saw. I immediately felt a connection I could not put words to.
“Do you have a minute?” I asked.
“Time and I get along quite well,” he said. “What’s on your mind?” He looked for a place to sit and saw a bench nearby. I followed.
“It’s a question I’ve had forever,” I said, sitting next to him. His eyebrows lifted in invitation as I went on. “This life, it seems so unfair to so many. Please, I am not complaining. Life has been good to me and I am grateful. But even as a child I knew and heard about so many others who had cruel existences. Some had no life at all. It was as if they had no meaning. Others were evil, having no sense of anything but themselves – takers without conscience or even soul ...”
“And your question is why,” he said. His fingers combed his beard. “It was the same for me, every moment I lived. I searched for answers – in ancient writings, from my wisest friends, praying to Abba,* you know who I mean? I eventually knew I had to live with the mystery, just as you are doing now.”
“But you, you’re...”
“I am a seeker, like you. I seek meaning and truth, all the while trusting my Abba and believing in the goodness of life, even though it is not fair. It is what it is, for everyone. Some claim fate to explain it; others karma to accept it. Still others find a faith within to endure and give a kind of meaning to their journey.”
“But ... how did you make sense of it? What did you find in your seeking?”
“My self, and all the gifts within. A sense of something more, something whole. I was taught by wonderful parents how to love and be present to the truth of others while sharing my own. I caused both my parents to worry and put my mother through the cruelest of pain because of the unconditional love she gave me – and taught me to give to others. Like my Abba. She, too, asked ‘Why?’
“But love ... always has ... conditions.” It was more of a question than it sounded.
“Not where I come from. Our Abba embraces us always, just as my mother did after I died, after I put her through all of that.”
Our eyes met and lingered in a long silence. I shook my head, blew out a breath and said, “But why ...?”
“There is no answer except love. Suffering always holds lessons to be learned.” He looked away and into the distance for a long time. When his eyes returned to mine, they were even clearer. “I did not choose my life; I lived it, looking for the truth inside me, believing it was all I had to give. That and unconditional love.”
He rose from the bench, spread his arms and hugged me, saying, “Like you, I am grateful.” And he was gone.
“Hey, mister, you okay?” The voice was a child’s, his finger poking my knee. I startled awake as the bus jerked to a stop. “Huh? Oh. Yeah, I’m fine. I’m fine, son. Just nodded off. Thanks.”
It was the boy’s stop. From the sidewalk he looked back. Embarrassed, puzzled, I rubbed my eyes as the bus continued on its way.
*Abba: Father, God.