I never met the old man, and most likely never will.
To most a faceless passerby, a nameless figure,
Nothing more than a stranger.
Sitting in a field surrounded by dandelions,
The warm gentle wind more suffocating than cool.
His only possession a rocking chair.
Hand carved with grinders, files, rasps, and chisels.
The summer sun beamed her unrelenting heat.
Sweat beads on his forehead, the only proof he’s still alive.
Miles away he hears the laughter of the children playing in the water.
Their joyous spirit carried on the breeze.
No cares. No worries. Just free.
He listens with his eyes closed toward the sky.
He rocks gently.
It is not of childhood…cruel.
It is not of heaven…unforgiving.
It is not of his life full of memories…painful.
It is not a visit from his children…regret.
A young gentleman passing by saw the old man sitting in his rocking chair.
While most carry on, never glancing sideways, he saw.
Even with burdens of a young family, career, and life, he saw the old man.
He saw the old man…alone.
He asked, “What are doing out here? Do you have family I can call?”
The old man continued to sway…back and forth…back and forth.
Wiping sweat from his brow, he turned to the young man.
And with a broken heart, he spoke, “I’ve lived my life. The time has gone. A boy, I once was. Time has left me nothing but withered and old. My needs are simple. My joy is fleeting. My only wish now, is for the shade from a tree.”
The young man smiled, and planted him a tree.
He knew the tree represented more than a reprieve from summer’s merciless grasp.
The tree would become the relief from the pain of loneliness, which only the kindness of a stranger could provide.
By: Hollie Queener
Arbor Day 2013
This poem was inspired by the following Facebook post by one of my friends from high school… “Anybody want to help Julie and myself purchase and plant a shade tree for a little old man? He’s 82, lives alone, and wants some shade to sit in. Looking at a fast growing shade tree, like a maple or something. Couldn’t be too expensive. Who wants to help?”
Sometimes it is through kindness of strangers that the true beauty of selfless giving to others becomes the greatest gift to yourself.