Fear Gets Lost In The Big PictureBusiness
Paul’s image slammed on the brakes and cursed at the old man who had cut him off. It was their third close call since leaving the school. “You know,” Rafe chirped, “if this is the way you always drive, you’re a lot luckier than I gave you credit for.”
“Very funny. I may be afraid of losing my school, and I may be afraid of rich people, but at least when I get behind the wheel of a car, I’m a man above fear.”
“There are times, my friend, when a little fear is a good thing,” Rafe replied with a laugh. “In fact a little fear can be quite a positive thing if it helps you see the big picture. Come on, let’s go for a walk.”
“Right now? We can’t go for a walk! We’re headed for the bank.”
“Oh, no problem.” Rafe pulled the watch out of his pocket and pushed a button; instantly everything froze in place. Rafe stepped out, motioning Paul to follow him through the door.
AS LONG AS YOU’RE STILL BREATHING, YOU HAVEN’T LOST EVERYTHING.
They walked down a narrow alley. Paul was fascinated that even though time had stopped, he could still smell the garbage. Halfway down the alley Rafe stopped and looked at a man sleeping under a makeshift blanket of
newspapers. An empty booze bottle protruded from a brown bag near his head. “Is this what you mean by losing everything?” Rafe asked.
“Okay, take a look.” An image appeared on the brick wall in front of them, as though a rear-screen projection television had been installed there. Two men were standing on a stage; one was giving the other a large plaque and speaking.
“Jack O’Mara was down, but he never let himself get counted out. He pulled himself out of the gutter, and somehow God gave him the courage to quit drinking. And now not a day goes by that Jack isn’t out there in the streets helping others who are down, showing them how to get back up. Let’s give a big hand . . .”
As the picture faded out, Paul saw tears tracking the deep wrinkles of Jack’s ruddy cheeks. He looked down at the younger man on the ground, who appeared so much older than he would in the future. Rafe stooped to place another layer of newspaper over Jack’s shoulders. “I guess as long as you’re still breathing, you haven’t lost everything.”
They walked on through the alley and across the street. An old man and a young boy were sitting together a the bus stop. “Come on,” Rafe motioned, “let’s go listen in for a minute.”
The little boy was talking: “Everybody says you used to be rich. Were you really?”
The old man laughed indulgently. “If you mean did I have a lot of money, yes I used to be rich. I had a big car, and a man to drive it, and in the morning people would say ‘good-day’ real polite because they were all so scared of me.” The man looked at the little boy and winked. “Oh, I was pretty tough in those days. Used to yell and scream a lot, and treated some people pretty bad. But I made a lot of money.”
“Wow!” The little boy’s eyes were big and greedy. “What happened?”
The old man frowned and shook his head. “Well, it just sort of all fell apart. There were lots of reasons, but mostly I jut got tired. The business went downhill faster than I could catch it.”
The little boy narrowed his gaze. “You must really be sad now, huh?” The old man laughed. “This morning I’m sitting here with a delightful young man. Then I’ll go read at the library for a while, and feed the squirrels in the park. When I get back home, the wonderful woman who put up with me for so many years will have soup on the stove, and she’ll jump when I pinch her bottom like she didn’t know it was coming, even though I’ve done it every day for forty-six years.” The little boy blushed and looked away, and the old man tussled his hair. “No, I reckon I’m not sad.”
Rafe froze the scene again and they walked back toward the car. Paul was getting used to Rafe’s hand on his shoulder. Rafe gave him a gentle shove and said, “I guess you don’t really mean you could lose everything, do you?”
“I know,” Paul muttered, “keep your perspective. There are still children starving in India even though I cleaned my plate all those years. But it’s easy enough for you to pick out those happy endings. What about all the endings that aren’t so happy?”