A few days ago I had a passing encounter with a gentleman I had never met and will likely never meet again, yet the memory of this brief encounter has lingered and I’ve been reflecting on it ever since. The telling of it will take only a moment, but perhaps the reading of it will linger for you as the experience has for me.
It was an unusually pleasant late afternoon, by central Florida standards. Pleasant enough to plop my daughter in her stroller and set out for a walk around our neighborhood. Making our way down an uneven and narrow sidewalk, I noticed a man in a wheelchair wheeling his way toward us. As he approached, it became apparent that the sidewalk was not big enough for both his wheelchair and my daughter’s stroller. It also became apparent that he was an amputee.
At my first opportunity, I pushed the stroller into a driveway and waited for the man to pass. As he did, I smiled and nodded. Slowing his pace just a touch, he nodded back and, with a smile of his own and a tone utterly bereft of bitterness or self-pity, he said to me, “I wish I had my dad to push me now.” With that he gestured over his shoulder as if to point at where his dad would be. “Funny how life comes full circle,” he added. And with that he was gone.
Immediately, I was deeply moved by what was certainly one of the most poignant encounters I’ve ever experienced with a stranger. It was the sort of encounter that jars one’s point of view, causing all of life to appear, for a moment, in a different, clearer light. Turning it over again and again in my mind, I think it was the untroubled wistfulness that was most striking, that and the wisdom so winsomely delivered.
So there I was, still in the full flush of early fatherhood, imagining myself, and my daughter, many years hence, wondering, among other things, how life and love will weave us together.