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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Scratching the surface series - Leonard

I'm not trying to be a do gooder like Angelina Jolie. I'm not trying to get scoop for a story like a news hungry journalist. I'm just trying to make a small difference in what may seem a very insignificant way.

Sometimes, especially elders, just want company. Don't we all? A simple conversation. Someone who asks how you are doing. When was the last time someone asked you how your day was and really meant it? I try to be mindful of this as we all have tendencies to go on and on and on about ourselves, our woes, our whines and our wants.

Meet Leonard Foley.

Have you ever noticed when speaking with an elder, that when they introduce themselves, they always include their first and last name? No matter their life circumstance, there seems to be a sense of pride when they say their full name. This seemed to be the case with Leonard.

I found Leonard at a local Salvation Army hostel and we got to chatting about both life and nothing at all really. I had a packed lunch with me but it's kind of awkward and assuming to approach someone and say something like "Hey, you look like you need a sandwich."  Nevertheless, when I offered my lunch to him, he said in the sweetest voice that a sandwich sounded really good.

I got the sense that Leonard was younger than he looked. His tobacco stained hands reminded me of my own father whom I would see many years later. Growing up, my dad was a handsome man. He drove beautiful cars and unfortunately for my mom, was a real ladies man. His life choices eventually caught up with him and I would years later see him at my University graduation and I barely recognized the man. His trim physique was replaced with the belly of a man unkempt, a nose of a drunk and a cigarette stained moustache. The reckless years had caught up with ol' Wayne. There was one difference I saw in Leonard's eyes when he spoke of a wife and children. His eyes seemed filled with regret and sorrow. He said that he lived a lonely life and that nobody really comes to visit him. He said if he one day got his act together, he might be able to get his family back. I don't think my own father has any sense of regret about anything. He can join Michael's dad and their life's actions to keep them company.

Leonard was keen on the idea of getting his picture taken. We had a short chat and I asked him if he had someone to spend Christmas with, and I think I had pushed too far. He took his sandwich, thanked me for my time and wished me a Merry Christmas and shut the front door of the hostel.

That sandwich may have been a small gesture. The conversation certainly wasn't much. But judging by the lonely tone in Leonard's voice, these two things were probably the highlight of his day. The neat thing about life is that with one small act of kindness, you really could make someone feel important. We are all humans and we all want to matter.

So maybe, in the hurried dash of the daily grind, you too could take the time to ask someone something small about themselves. Or bring them a sandwich. Or ask them how they are doing.

And how was your day?



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