A heavy burden

The day had been quite uneventful. I had gone to work in the morning and returned in the evening. After returning, I had gone with my son to our regular park for some much-needed playtime. At the park, it was much quieter than on other days: it was, after all, just before a major holiday. My son and I ran around for a while and played in the dirt. We made friends with tiny wildflowers, rough stones, peeling bark, and shiny beetles. As sunset approached, we regretted having to return home, so as a compromise of sorts, we decided to take the longer, more scenic route back.

Any other day, I might not have noticed the old man walking down the sidewalk toward me, but it was hard to miss him today, since there were no other people. He was crouched over something, panting loudly with a grimace on his face, and barely moving. As I came closer, I noticed what he was holding. It was a bag filled with groceries. I looked at him with concern. The man was most certainly grimacing.

I approached him. “Sir, can I help you?”

He put the bag down on the side of the street and put his arms on his waist. He was still crouched and breathing heavily. “If I can get to the bus-stop, I should be fine,” he said between short breaths.

“Well, I can most certainly help.” Not willing to hurt his self-esteem, I added, “My son and I were returning from the park. I don’t even need to carry your bag. I can put it in the carrier of his stroller.”

The man nodded and I collected his bag. We followed his lead quietly. I did feel the need to make pointless conversation, and he did not feel the need to make eye contact. I understood.

Once we reached the bus-stop near the town library, we parted ways. I said “Have a good weekend.” He nodded and sat down on a bench.

Up until that point, I had been quite happy about the prospect of the long weekend and how I would be spending it, but walking away, I felt a tinge of sadness. Who was this man? Why was he carrying such a burden? Where was he going? What would he be doing tonight? Did he have any family and friends to spend time with during the holiday?

My son is eighteen months old now. I am getting older. One day I will be old too. One day we will no longer be living together. When I am not with him, I hope he instincitively does the right thing. I hope he reaches out to others, because they remind him of his parents.

My son and I reached the intersection. When the lights changed, we crossed the street. I couldn’t help but quickly glance at all the young men and women in their fancy cars.

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