This morning, I made one of my frequent runs to send out a bunch of packages. I've been standing in lines at the post office for 16 years now, and have seen a lot of different types of people...screaming babies, harried business types, newlyweds, old folks with walkers (and sometimes oxygen tanks), and of course people of just about every color, size, shape, creed and demographic.
I've never been one to put a lot of value on what someone looks like. I toss on a pair of jeans every morning on my way to work, run my fingers through my hair, rub on a little moisturizer, and "good enough," you know?
Standing behind me this morning (in a very long and slow-moving post-holiday line at the post office), was an older feller. I call him a feller, because that's kind of what he looked like. Shorts and a t-shirt with no sleeves, late-70's/early-80's, tennis shoes, a scruff of a very white beard coming in on his chin. He was wearing thicker glasses, but had sparkly eyes.
Another gentleman behind the two of us seemed to be Arabic and was having trouble understanding his tracking information from the internet. I offered to take a look at his print-out, and only helped that man discover that he really did need to talk to someone up front. The older gentleman, sensing my friendly top o' the morning demeanor, struck up a conversation with me, starting, as it usually does, with something along the lines of: "Oh my goodness, those are a lot of packages you're mailing."
I told him I was self-employed, and he said he had a grand-daughter who was, too. He told me in a thick southern drawl he had worked for public transportation down in New Orleans for a few decades. Hm, I thought, a bus driver? Not judging, of course, just sizing him up. I asked him if he missed it, and he said he didn't. But before that, you see, he was an engineer, and travelled to many countries, like France, the Philippines, and Indonesia. He loved the people of the Philippines, but found Indonesia to be an ideal climate.
He had also lived in a number of different areas of the United States, but when his wife became ill (and I'm assuming passed away), he retired. Of course this was many years after he was a football player for a local community college. Shortly after that, he received his degree from Harvard in engineering. "I still play basketball once a week," he said, winking at me. "I'm eighty-five."
"Good for you!" I said. "That's awesome! Cool!" By this time, we had worked our way to the front and had to part ways. He told me he hoped I had a great day, and I wished him the same. Maybe I'll run into him again sometime...maybe I won't. But he reminded me this morning that it really is unimportant what someone looks like...and not to make assumptions. On top of every pair of legs, inside every skull resides a person with experiences and value. You just never know where someone has been, what they've done for their communities. A bus driver is no less valuable than a Harvard-educated engineer...we are all of us needed to make this world go 'round.
And I was happy to listen for a little while this morning.