I often think of the kindly ones.
Especially in these days. Especially in these times of an increasingly fearful and angry public being fueled into a state of irrationality by 24 hour news cycles. Especially in these days where the definition of “social media” is being held prisoner by a smartphone that makes you willingly engage in the imprisonment of unwitting cartoon creatures. My thoughts often go to the kindly ones.
The ones that lived through hardship after hardship, and still welcome you with open arms. The ones who dispense wisdom without an ounce of bias. The ones whose love is so unconditional, you’d scarcely believe that such a person ever existed. The ones with open minds and big hearts. The ones with warm smiles and calloused hands. I think about them often to keep them from disappearing. I think about them often so that I may clear out the noise and clutter in my head, and allow me to tell the difference between honesty and poison. I think about how many times I’ve never learned from what they taught, and how I desperately need their voices back in these days of a crumbling civilization.
I often think of them. Where they are. If they’re still alive.
That was pretty much the motivation behind this next project set before me by iAuthor. The fiction is based on a picture by photographer and professional Photoshopper, Ionut Caras. Again, here was a challenge that I was a click away from avoiding. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a gorgeous work, and I turn several shades of green at the Photoshop skills this guy has. But the message, or indeed any message that was present, was eventually lost on me. Perhaps because I am so saturated by watching YouTube tutorials, that I saw more beauty in the technicality and the execution, rather than focusing on what it meant to me.
Then one by one, the voices and faces of the kindly ones came back.
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The Corner of State & Grace
This was her block. That the bank owned most of it wasn’t the point. Whenever she walked out to the curb, everyone knew it was her block. She knew everyone’s name, and everyone knew hers. She was quick to welcome a stranger, and even quicker to give a smile.
She was beloved. She was respected. She was homeless. She would offer you the coat off her back, if she had one to give. But what she gave was love, and love was all we gave back.
All of us would take care of her the best way we knew how, but the cancer would slowly take her. She had no proper family, we were her family.
The last days were the worst. We all knew that it wouldn’t be long. All of us pooled money together, some called in favors. We all made sure that she had a bed and a roof over her head, although she protested. She wanted her ending to be on her terms.
When the time finally came, she looked at all of us one last time; a sea of sad faces young and old. She smiled at us and said, “Now, now. No tears. Not here. Not now. No tears for me. I want you to remember all the good. Nothing but the good. Tomorrow, when I am gone, go to my corner and when you finished saying your good-byes, look up. I’ll be smilin’ attcha!”
It was the last thing she said.
The groundskeepers at Potter’s Field were dumbstruck. They have never in their lives seen such a turnout for one person. Everyone in their Sunday best. Everyone with a black umbrella open; a shield of mourning against a weeping sky. After the service, we all didn’t know what to do except honor her last wish.
One by one, we all stood there in the rain recalling what she meant to us. And then, when we were done, we looked up. And just like she was making good yet again on her promises, the black clouds melted under a mighty rainbow. She was smiling at us, one last time.
©2016 AA Payson