I often wonder to myself whilst I sit in the park, simply being and watching, how these people live their lives and what their stories are.
I come here quite frequently and have noticed with each passing day, one man in particular is here every time.
He is a quiet weathered old soul, with long grey hair that merges into his beard. I see his glassy eyes people watching as well, as he softly smiles to himself.
I finally decided one day to go talk to him, our gazes have met each other more than a few times and I grew curious.
"Hello sir," I introduced myself, "May I sit next to you? " His usually lonesome demeanor changed in an instant and that soft smile hardened and grew wide.
"Well of course you may! You must be thinking the same thing I am.
What's your story dear?
" I told him about my tough days of keeping up with 2 jobs, just to pay rent and my mothers hospital bills and how this park on the walk home is the only alone time I get.
He just sat there silently nodding, listening to every word I spoke. I felt relieved to finally have told someone about my hardships but could no longer wait.
"May I ask what your story is? " He shifted on the park bench to turn more towards me, "well my dear, it is a long sad old tale.
" I remembered how I had the rest of the day off, and replied "I have all the time in the world.
" He began to tell me about his childhood, growing up in the harbour with his mother and sister never having met his deceased father.
He recalled how his mother gased at the boats down by the warf, "she always said, my father loved nothing more than fishing out on the open water,
with our family as the only exception of course.
" He told me how his dream was to one day taste the salt air and feel the ocean breeze through his hair just like his father, to know the same joy.
"I felt closer to him whenever I looked at that warf, unfortunately I had no dime to spare on my own boat so I set aboard a navy vessel.
" He had signed up for the navy, "my mother was never so proud of me and as sad as the day, she said goodbye to her only son." I felt a twinge of emotion rising up in my chest.
I felt as if I was really there reliving his life. "It was hard labor and I did get awful seasickness, but when I looked at the horizon, I understood why my father loved the sea.
" I smiled, "that's such a beautiful memory. " His smiling face turned to a rueful one. "Yes, " he replied "but it also brings me sorrow.
" I frowned, "I received a letter 4 months into my service informing me my mother and dear sister had passed away in a house fire. I no longer had a home or family to return to.
" He steadily stared out into the park, "so I decided the navy was my life now. " He explained how he was active in service for many years, and saw many terrible and beautiful things.
His best friend, who had also signed up for the Navy around the same time as he, had passed away due to an infection and once again he was alone.
"I decided that I had served enough, and didn't want to feel so alone anymore so I returned back home. Or what was left of my home.
" After many years the land had already been sold, and a new family had built their house where his once was.
He decided to move to the city, to try to meet more people, possibly marry a beautiful and kind woman, and to replace his sorrow with happy memories.
"Alas my joy was not to be discovered here in this city, after years of service I was becoming arthritis ridden. No workforce would hire these old bones and I had no money saved.
I am now nothing but another homeless veteran on these streets." My face felt wet, I hadn't realized when I started crying and I couldn't stop.
"I'm so sorry to hear that, that's so terrible.
" I didn't quite know what to say, how does someone apologize for the system?
Thinking back to all the times I had passed other men who sat next to the street, they all has the same worn down look as he did. "It's not fair to you veteran's, " I sputtered through sobs.
"My dear, I am an old man now. Although I have seen a great deal of hardship in my life, I have seen just as much beauty and mesmerizing things.
I have accepted my life and am proud of who I am. I became close to my father, made my mother proud, loved with all my heart and I am still full of dreams." I wiped desperately at my face.
"How do you do it? Keep going each day, I always see you smiling.
" He reached out and took my hands "I am full of my faith, and happy watching over others live out their dreams as I once did.
I think to myself why a person who walks by is frowning, or smiling.
I look at the way they carry themselves, the way they dress, the different cultures and religions and I remember what life is really about," he paused.
"What would you say, life is really about, " I asked captivated by his positivity despite his situation.
"I would say life is about giving it your all, to keep going when all else fails, to keep your faith and love.
To remember a small bit of kindness can go a long way and that there will always be a tomorrow welcoming you to new possibilities. " He patted my hand and laughed at my expression.
"You are the wisest and strongest person I have ever met, " I whispered. "We all fight our own wars, " He chuckled.
"My problems aren't any more or less important than someone else's, and the same thing goes for you. " He stood up from the bench we had made our home.
"Well my dear, I believe it is time for you to go home, thank you for talking to an old fool like me. " No! Thank you so much for talking with me.
May I visit you after work again? " He smiled that soft smile at me and said "of course, I love making new friends. " He hugged me then I watched as he slowly left the park.
I remember by the time I left the stars we're brightly shining, and I knew I would be ok. I could handle whatever life had to throw at me.
After that night, I would look for him at the park every day after work but that was the last time I saw him. I sometimes wonder if he was an angel, sent down to meet me.
It must have been fate that we were to talk that day. I will always remember the story he had told me and remember his lesson on the true meaning of life.
Everyone's story is precious, and I can't wait to live out my own.