Saturday morning our family headed over to the opening of the Orangeville Farmer's Market, to enjoy a pancake breakfast, browsing through the vendor booths, and rub shoulders with our town neighbours. It was a lovely, cheerful morning - one which I would have enjoyed even without any unusual events. But I had an unusual encounter with a local man that I have been contemplating ever since.
I noticed the man early in the day. He wore shorts and a t-shirt, and a red ball cap slightly askew. He walked with a brace held in one arm, and each step was awkward and possibly even painful. I thought he may have had some sort of mental disability also. I noticed that he, too, was taking in the entire scene.
After I had finished meandering through each laneway, I headed over to volunteer at one of the booths (we're trying to bring French Immersion to Orangeville). Over the next 45 minutes or so I chatted up other mothers and mothers-to-be to drum up support for our cause, talking about my experiences in the program and collecting names of interested parents. Then, during a lull, this man approached me and asked me how old Caleb was. His words came slowly but deliberately. I immediately discerned that he did have all his mental faculties, but that it took extra time for the words to be formed. We casually chatted about Colin and Caleb, busy life as a parent, the beautiful day and the turn-out for the market. Five minutes passed quickly, and then I was called away to another interested parent. When I turned back, he was gone.
I thought nothing more of it, until 15 minutes later when a woman approached me from her adjacent booth.
"I can't believe you were speaking with that man," she murmured under her breath.
"Oh really?" I was a little shocked. Unless a person is being verbally abusive, I see no reason why I shouldn't engage in conversation.
"It's such a sad story," she began. "A while back he was hitch-hiking and was picked up by a drunk driver. The driver slammed his car into a tree, killing himself and severely injuring that man. He actually died three different times and was revived. When he woke, he was angry that they had let him live. He didn't think it was fair that he had to go on living in the state the accident left him in. He hasn't spoken to anyone since the accident."
I managed to mumble something in response and the woman moved back to her booth. Certainly there were no indicators in the conversation I had with the man that he was in anyway reclusive. I would consider the conversation casual, touched with a little laughter and quite neighbourly.
The experience sat with me heavily yesterday, and is still with me today. What did this man see in me that made him approach me? What part was I playing in God's plan for both of us? I have no doubt that I must have impacted him greatly, for him to take this step. Even more interesting, though, is the impact he has had on me. I felt so honoured that, caught up in my own daily life, God still found a way to help me reach out and touch someone. I wonder now what influence I have had on people in the past? Has it been all for good, or have I set a bee in someone's bonnet? Have I taken all the opportunities that have come my way to shine as a light in this world, or do I sometimes hide behind a bush in fear or weariness?
This was the type of experience that stays with you for a long while, and hopefully I will use it to shape my own self a little better.