The young boy looked into the tired eyes of an old, weather-beaten man. A vagrant, dishevelled, who smiled though yellow teeth; dirty hair, grey skin and black nails.
The boy turned away, pierced by the eyes, feeling awkward and embarrassed. With school over for the day he walked and began to think of the tramp; something moved, deep, unfamiliar, unknown, in his heart. He had felt disgust and despair, but now there was pity and compassion.
Over many days they passed each other and the man waved. In time the boy acknowledged, the ice melting, and he spoke as the man sat through sun, wind and rain. Weeks passed and soon they were laughing together. His heart softened and he began to learn from stories told by the old man, of the wisdom gained from a life of pain. As months marched by, from summer into winter, they became true friends.
And the boy grew in learning, of things that matter; of space and time, of beauty, of nature, of spirit, of love and death, from the cracked lips of the old man.
One day in early spring, “I have to go soon”, the old man whispered. He took the boy’s hand in his and tears welled. “Be good, be true and remember,” were his last words.
In the morning there was an ambulance where the old man would sit. The boy saw it from afar.
Running, his heart pounding, he reached the spot too late. A stranger stood there, “the old man died, they took him away.”
The boy cried, but through tears he saw a photograph, where the man used to sit. It was of the old man when he was young, like the boy, as if he were looking in a mirror.
The boy remembered, and became a man.