Wednesday, March 7, 2012

On faith and falling

I park my car in a parking lot that spans a city block. I get here early, so I have my pick of spaces, and I park in the corner. I park my wheels right next to a cement curb the size of a balance beam, about six inches high. It runs the length of the lot from Davis Street to Couch.

When I arrive really early, 5:30 or 6, sometimes I see something strange. It happened again this morning.

It's dark out. Chinatown is always sketchy this early, with rough characters. On the opposite end of the lot, I see a well-dressed man, maybe in his 60s - suit, tie, wool overcoat - step up on the curb and proceed to walk, trapeze artist style, from one end of the block to the other. Sometimes he carries a briefcase or expensive looking umbrella. He is sober looking, with nothing in his expression to indicate he is doing something playful, or unexpected. He walks with calm concentration.

I have seen this several times now. His feet never touch the sidewalk. When he gets to the end, he steps off the curb and proceeds across Burnside to his work, perhaps in the Bancorp Tower? Perhaps he's a lawyer?

This morning it timed that he was walking towards my car just as I was parking. I was hurrying to get out of my car fast so as not to interrupt him, but just as I was closing my door, he looked up at me and stepped off onto the sidewalk to walk around me.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I messed up your tightrope walk."

His warmth surprised me. "Oh, that's okay," he laughed.

His gentle response gave me the courage to ask a question. "How many times do you think you've done that?"

He smiled again. "Oh, quite a few times. I've been here quite a number of years."

I nodded and gave him the look that said: "Impressive."

We parted and walked towards our respective offices, and then he added, "I fall a lot, too."

A simple exchange, but it echoed in me in a funny way as I walked up the steps to my office. An encouragement for my efforts to stay on the beam?

It brought to mind a conversation I had once with an executive coach. He was one of those guys who always seemed to hold it together, despite whatever insanity was happening around him. His serenity and gentle humor and clear-headedness were a marvel. What was his secret? Had he figured it out?

He also smiled. "It's a faith walk," was all he would say. "We have to walk it every day."

The frost on the car this morning reminded me that it's still Winter, with everything that it brings. Winter has brought its share this year, especially to people around me. Sometimes I haven't known what to do with it.

But Spring is indeed coming. When I look, I see it. Trees are budding, it's getting light earlier. Miracles happening everywhere. I'm inspired by the people around me.

It's a faith walk. We have to walk it every day. You fall sometimes. You get back on it the next day.


I'm principal of a said...

Correction: spotted the guy yesterday and upon closer look I vastly over-estimated his age. He was probably not much older than me. So, old, but not THAT old.

But my deeper impression was not wrong:

Same deal as I was parking - trying to hustle out of the car so as not to block his tight rope walk - and as I was trying to quickly gather my stuff, phone, drink, ipod cord, I dropped my coffee, right on his curb. Dork.

"What'd you do that for?" he asked with a smile.

"I was trying to get out of your way!"

"Aw, that's too bad, you lost your coffee!" he said. "Want me to buy you another cup?" he asked, sincerely.

No! Just keep being awesome friendly early morning lawyer tight rope man!

I'm principal of a said...

Related, from Mahatma Gandhi:

"I know the path. It is straight and narrow. It is like the edge of a sword. I rejoice to walk on it. I weep when I slip. God's word is: 'He who strives never perishes.' I have implicit faith in that promise. Though, therefore, from my weakness I fail a thousand times, I will not lose faith."