the dance of the ink riddled fingers

$5.99

The cashier watched me curiously as I tried pathetically to look like I had a purpose for loitering around the front of the small local grocery store.   My eyes flittered across the lolly selection, strategically placed at the front counter.  Then walking to the lolly aisle, choosing a box of tictacs, I fiddled with it and then put it back; keeping a careful watch on the old guy with the walking stick at the far right corner of the little store.  He had been talking to the staff stacking shelves for about eight minutes now and my restlessness was growing.  I paced a little, walking the inside perimeter of the cool section and then into the alcoholic beverages area.  I smirked, betting I probably looked about 16.  In this time about seven others had walked in and out of the store and I sussed out each individual, trying to work out whether it was any of them.  Blank. The only person I was keenly aware of was him, elderly Mr. Conversation.  And with a sigh of relief, I heard him round up his stories with the stockist and watched him hobble his way down the breakfast isle, scooping up a small box of cereal in his stride.  

He came behind me  into what had thankfully appeared as a que for the single cashier.  And as the man in front of me was paying, I turned around, sized him up and asked instinctively, “Do you need a hand?”

Standing awkwardly with walking sticking under arm, one bottle of tomato sauce in right hand, cereal in the other, he replied, “I’m about to fall over”, and my heart chuckled. Relieving him of his two burdensome goods and placing them on the counter, I finally met the eyes of the cashier and smiled, “I’ll take these for the gentleman.”  

“Is that why you were hanging around here?”
“Well, he took so long talking.”

Mr. Conversation was getting his wallet out and his limited agility meant that I had swiped and smiled before he had realised.  And as the cashier waved away his money, he stood there confused, looking to me, then the cashier and back again.

“Strangely enough, I was at home, and God told me to come here to pay for your groceries, so I ran here and waited for you” I said, still coming to terms with it in my own head.

“Oh God bless you, young lady! What would make you do that? Tell me your name. What school do you go to? You didn’t have to do that!…” 

He reached over to take back his things but I drew them away, “Which way are you going? I can take them for you.”

And so began my wonderment for yesterday.

We walked slowly, granted, and in that space of time – about forty-six minutes – a new found friend had opened his life to me, made me smile, taught me about things I’d never heard about and sunned my spirit!

His name was Graeme and he was just over six foot, with a whole head of perfectly white hair.  In my first two minutes with him, I’d learnt that he had an amputated toe (due to diabetics, and him not looking after himself as well as his late wife had).  He told me about his bung knee and how it had pained him since 80, but his Hungarian walking stick had been a help.  When I asked how old he was now, he told me 84, and I remarked “So you have your best years ahead of you!” To which, he knocked back his head and let out a trumpeting “AHAHA”, then almost embarrassed about that unexpected release of childish amusement, continued conversation as per composed 84 year old’s do.

Turns out he was qualified in economics but when that industry withheld occupations from him, he became a teacher – and never looked back.  Working at several school in Australia and one in Singapore, we talked about schools, and Singapore. I learnt about his family; that his granddaughter wanted to be a ballerina, his daughter was studying at ACU to be a teacher, his father was an ANZAC and his great great (great?) grandfather was a nightpoacher who caught rabbits from private property and was shipped to Australia for his crime – from whence the family became Australian.

He told me fondly that he played bowls four times a week and had another game at 1:30 that afternoon, followed by a barbeque (which he’d bought the tomato sauce for).

He counted to ten for me in both Romanian and Serbian, and recalled to me the first time he’d heard Bahasa Malay, reciting “eighteen dollars” for me in the then local tongue (which I’ve of course forgotten by now).  He gave me an insightful history lesson on Hungary, Anglican church origin and told me a little about his travels.

We finally approached his new little white car, which he described as the smallest car that could fit him.  He even admitted he didn’t know if he’d still be driving after his current three year licence expired. We stood there talking for a good while longer, and my eyes tired with the brightness of the sky. But my smile wasn’t phased as he told me wonderful things. Wonderful, because he had a wealth of knowledge, a richness of stories and a humble sense of humour! Of every word he spoke, and every story he told me from his 84 years of life – there was not a word of complaint: no complaint about his diabetes, missing his wife, his sore knee.  No pity for himself, no sorrow, nor regret or bitterness.  Here was a man that I was very much beginning to love.  He was sweet as well.  Before he farewelled me, he insisted I kiss him on the cheek.  Then suggestively leant his right cheek down to me, and I obliged, smirking that my 25 year old fiancé need not be threatened by my new 84 year old friend.

What character! Graeme, you beautiful heart, you!

– – – – –

Haha, I write this not to boast any good deeds, but to remind every young person that the most incredible characters are not unusually three times your age.  Also to give testimony that love and care for even strangers – in the simplest of ways will do more good than you can know, enriching your life probably more than the recipient’s.

Where this is coming from: I’m beginning to learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Beginning to learn what it means.  About how reciting the entire book of John will not change my life (or anybody else’s) unless I am serious about deciding to love those within my vicinity. And if more people on this planet would consciously love others, the population of humanity would actually believe in love and how wonderful it is (and it wouldn’t take believers so long to convince non-believers – and themselves – to believe in Love, because they’d encountered it before). 

Here’s some suggestions, simple ideas that won’t put you out of pocket more than $3: when you go to the shops, buy an extra chocolate bar and then give it to the cashier, and thank them by name (they have nametags for a reason). In the coffee line of your usual cafe, buy the coffee for the person behind you.  Write on the back of your restaurant bill and leave it for the waiter/waitress telling them how amazing they are (whether you ‘felt’ they were or not!). Just try to make it a way of life to love on those around you – without the condition of them knowing you or having to be nice to you!

I’ll cap it off with this, [for the crazy Christians out there:] at the end of my lovely moment with Graeme, I casually told him “You know your leg won’t be causing you too much trouble from now on”.  Sure, I believe that Jesus heals, but I didn’t need to pray fervently at 90 decibels for it to transpire. What was very encouraging though, is that he believed with me; and just as a token, told me to touch his knee because he’d read stories where touching brought healing, so I did.  Then we left it at that! 

Haha, and yes, I know there is still an infinite amount of things I need to learn about love, real love, and how Jesus loves and sees every single incredible human being, and even every single horrible human being.  Sure I’ve have my less than lovely moments, and people who I’ve grown impatient with. But I’m not going to stir you about who deserves love and who doesn’t.  I’ve been told to love and that’s what I’m learning to do, I just had a cool story to share.

Mind you, not all love stories will go that way and they may not be that fun, but who knows, you’ll have to love to find out…

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One Response

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  1. saNdra said, on 10/07/2013 at 11:13 PM

    i haven’t read ya blog in ages, but something made me click the link today and woaH.
    Praying ya digging deep into that good news of the Gospel of Christ!!!! =]


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