It’s funny how we live so much of our lives based on snapshots. Still photos of an instant in time, a specific location, looking in one direction with our attention focused on just a tiny corner of the viewfinder…and that snapshot becomes our reality.
This morning I’m sitting in a restaurant eating breakfast. At the table in front of mine sits a woman and her young daughter, who is wearing a pink hat. I only notice the hat because it was exactly the sort of thing my own daughter would wear.
Across the aisle from my table sits an old man, staring out the window, a cup of coffee held, as though forgotten, in his gnarled hands. His face creased and canyoned with years, mouth drooping slightly at the corners, a bushy white mustache and matching stubble gives the distinct impression of a moody walrus.
He looks tired. Worn.
As he sits, slump-shouldered and lost in his own thoughts, the little girl whispers something to her mother, which I cannot hear. Her mother responds is a hushed voice, “I don’t know, maybe he doesn’t have any family or friends to have breakfast with.”
Another undecipherable whisper.
“Yes, I think it’s sad too, but sometimes that what happens when we get older.”
Then their breakfast arrives, and they move on to another subject. The moment passes.
What the mother (my assumption) and the girl in the pink hat don’t have, can’t have, is the picture from MY perspective. My view from just a few minutes earlier, a few feet away, a slightly different angle…a wholly different reality.
When I arrived at the restaurant, roughly a half-hour earlier, there had been a dozen old men, sitting at three adjoined tables
They were loud and joyful. The room rang with their gravelly unrestrained laughter, sometimes bawdy jokes, and much back-patting and leg-pulling. I overheard (yes, I’m a shameless restaurant eavesdropper) plans to meet up for a round of golf later that afternoon, an invitation for “dinner with the wives”, and even talk of a deep-sea fishing trip this summer.
One man had shared about a recent business trip to Florida, another (our old man) about a trip to Greece with his granddaughters.
One by one his friends had finished their breakfasts of eggs, and thick bacon, and coffee with heavy cream, dropped bills from nearly identical creased and weathered leather wallets onto the tables, and excused themselves (several handshakes and a couple of hugs), most of them flirting with the young waitress, who appeared to know all of them by name, on the way out.
Finally, only the old man remained.
The tables were cleared and separated and, as his cup was refilled, he turned towards the window to watch the geese waddling around the rain speckled parking lot.
Just then, the bell above the door jingled and a woman walked in with her daughter, who wore a pink hat.
They saw an old man, seemingly lonely, perhaps embittered, obviously reflective and cognizant that his better days were behind him. Alone. My snapshot, however, showed a man full of joy, a life rich with friends old and dear, a loving family, a man of appetite who laughed freely and embraced life.
What a strange thing perspective is…and what a powerful force on how we perceive this thing we call reality. Each of us fashioning our worlds in our own little snapshots.
I hope I remember this…that life is not always what it seems in my viewfinder, that some things may be gold even if they don’t glitter.
That the grayest bare walls may shelter the most beautiful gardens, ones that are just around the corner from my view.