I once knew a man who was older than I am now. Back when I was younger than young. He was a gentle man, quiet and without pretense. He wasn’t suspect. Everyone liked him. Both child and adult alike. Even the toughs in the neighbourhood treated him with kindness and respect.
No one knew where he lived or where he came from. He was suddenly “just there” shuffling down the street smiling at those he passed, greeting those going in and out of shops, chuckling at the children who looked at him wide-eyed. To them he was a keeper of magic, who could make a penny appear in your ear (he even allowed you to keep the penny).
He was filled with stories, too, if we’d stop long enough to listen. Stories of marshmallow fields and bubble gum trees and a place called “over there.” He was like a ray of sunshine even on a cloudy day. In fact, some called him “Mr. Sunshine.” I didn’t know what they meant then, but I do now. Gentle kindness is a treasured thing. Mr. Sunshine’s kindness was gentle – wherever he went and to whomever he met. Peace seemed to follow his footsteps. Now, these many, many years later, I wonder of him.
What was his name? Where did he come from? Where did he go?
A gentle spirit is a rare commodity in this raucous world we live in. A relaxed moment is like a tattoo on the arm of life – not always visible, but always there. He left many of those moments on his journey of goodwill to be gathered by memory, bringing warmth when time grows tired and thought weary.
I think of him often. Especially when Christmas is tiptoeing ever closer and peace on earth to men of goodwill is shouted from the steeple. He was the personification of such news. He was indeed a “man of goodwill.”
There are so many, I believe, whose path we cross and then steal away a fragment of their shadow to bring warmth and appreciation in a future time. Men and women with a natural born kindness to uplift us when memory becomes quiet.
A smile, a genuine greeting, a time given, if only in a small way, to lift someone up. They create memories without being aware of what they are doing while we, the collectors, gather them up without real knowledge of what we are doing. We store them away until that time when the mind becomes weary and looks for solace in tender memories of long ago times.
Men and women of a natural goodwill are not always easy to find. We must take time to look for them. When we find them, we must allow their sun to shine in and stroke our souls.
I’ve known many in my lifetime – folks who don’t even try but simply “are” with every breath they take. Their thoughtfulness, concern and kindness not only brightens another person’s moment, but the world’s as well. They are unsung heroes. Without them, I believe, this tired old world would walk with a limp.
It isn’t often that grownups take time to explore a child’s life and mind and plant seeds to be warmed and nurtured until they are needed. To help heal those disparaging blows maturity seems so fond of giving. A gentle moment to dispel the noise.
It is my belief to walk through a child’s mind, you must return and become a child. To look at quiet gardens perhaps we have forgotten existed. The place of innocence surrounded by cream-soda lakes, bubble gum trees and marshmallow fields. That’s where I believe Mr. Sunshine came from. A visitor to what we term “reality” – but only a visitor. He came to scatter his reality so that young hearts could keep them for a special time. He came from “over there” beyond what we knew as “over there.”
I don’t know why I think of him now. Perhaps it’s because Christmas is right around the corner or what some call the “season of the child.” Perhaps it’s because this tender moment searched me out when I least expected it with its healing balm to remind that the older we are the younger we become.
Perhaps it’s to say to long ago distance: “Thank you for taking time to plant one of the many seeds in a little boy’s heart.” To say to Mr. Sunshine: “I remember, and I am forever grateful that you took time to come in search of a child in need of a story and a gentle smile.”
This column is supposed to be aimed at seniors, but not today. It is aimed at the child in a senior’s heart. A heart that once knew innocence until man-made reality tried to scar it with endeavour. A memory of an old man without a name who spread sunshine wherever he went.
OCTOBER 2013 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE
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