The Civility of Ordinary People
I saw you through the tall trees like old men, leaves fallen, towering with their years. You were a diminutive figure with a tiny frightened dog that seemed to hide from me, running from tree to tree, like a child hiding behind its parent's sturdy legs.
For so many years we had passed one another in this way. You with your speechless companion, I with mine. We were strangers whose nods to one another had become old friends. On some days when our ear phones occupied us we denied those friends a meeting, because we were wrapped in our music or in the news. On those days I felt the lost opportunity for the blessings of a simple greeting.
We thought things of one another, pictures of one another's lives off the trodden park path; rooms that we filled with our own imaginings. Mine were always of a place that was mild and tempered, where a frightened dog felt at home.
One day you rushed toward me. I had been away for some time, and had longed for the bracing mornings in the park, where the mist on the lake rose reluctantly and the deer were like statues, hoping to go unnoticed.
Where had I been? you asked. You had gained an insight into some of the rooms of my life through my writings. You were concerned and embraced me. "I am fine," I replied, feeling the crows feet forming a smile. You seemed genuinely relieved.
Amid the barren trees our nods greet one another once again. Your dog hides, my dog sniffs. All is well, as this year, when I am grateful for this delicate thing we have fostered and kept alive together, draws to a close.
In celebration of the civility that ordinary people show one another every day.
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