Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Running of the Leaves, Jamestown, NC

I was casually driving in the climate controlled comfort of my car's leather cabin this morning while listening to a remastered version of The Beatles Abbey Road which I had downloaded onto the hard disc drive of the audio system. A mid-November cold front preceded by a cold rain riding a north wind was pushing its way into the Carolinas, reminding all who ventured out today that the holidays were once again knocking at our doorstep. Passing vehicles stirred rapid successions of mini-whirlwinds of leaf devils, like the dust devils that swirl over freshly plowed farm fields. They gathered in great bands and rapidly joined together in powerful wind gusts to race down the street and along banked gutters. The very high spirited among them raced onto the freeway, attempting to outrun the speeding vehicles in a scene reminiscent of the running of the bulls.

As I rolled past the edge of a local college campus, I caught the eye of a young man huddled on the street corner apparently waiting to cross over to his Spartan off campus apartment. He was wearing typical campus attire with a dark hoodie over blue jeans. He seemed isolated and a bit uneasy as the reality of a raw cold wind penetrated the exposed core of his body and the survival instinct of his psyche.

That brief glance shook me out of my complacency and the Beatles music whisked me away back to my simplistic roots of college days in the 1960’s. My father had died of cancer during my sophomore year and I had laid out during the fall semester to earn enough money to continue my education. I sold my customized Ford and eventually lived back at home to obtain a degree. I had worked as a construction laborer and welder on an industrial building expansion project. Just as we removed the immense north doors of the large building to reposition them onto the new expansion, a similar cold front hit the area with scattered sleet riding on north winds that stung your exposed face. We had to finish the job, so we worked out in the elements for twenty minutes and then sought shelter and warmth inside for twenty minutes until the building was secured. I made considerably less money on that job than I currently earn in retirement. But it was enough.

Those kinds of early experiences can define a life. The challenges became a crucible to harden my resilience and move ahead. I eventually also learned that I never stood alone as long as I asked my heavenly Father to stand with me. And here I am today, silently passing by another young man standing alone on the corner, full of promise and hope for the future as he shivers in the elements. I wish him all the best including the presence of his heavenly Father to sustain him, north winds to keep his attention focused and enough hard times to strengthen his resolve.

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