Heading to the coffee shop, mocha on my brain, I mindlessly passed the cafe by a block and a half. Half thinking I should turn around, I decided to walk it instead. The walk will do me good, I said. And that’s when I noticed him--an old man sitting on a bench, cane propped protectively between his knees, his blue eyes looking off at something in the distance, perhaps a memory from the past, a flashback fading fast. I made my way up to him and smiled.
I pointed to the cap perched proudly on his head, I asked, are you a World War II Veteran? Why yes, mam, he said, yes, I am. And so I politely asked if I could shake his hand. I thanked him for his sacrifice and he proceeded to tell me his story.
He told me about his time there in the war and the great loss, the cost of which took the lives of nearly all his battalion. His eyes looked off in the distance again as he re lived his pain and exclaimed with great indignity that the real enemy was our own general--General Eisenhower!
He said that very few knew of the workings behind the scenes that devastated so many men and again, he looked off into the distance. There was no hiding his disgust as he discussed the details of this horrific time and the man in charge. And then, in the midst of his story, he shifted and said, “I heard a voice in my head saying, ‘Do not fear John. Just move forward.’” So I did. I walked straight through the shots and the bombshells going off. I walked forward through it all and though I should have been dead, I’m here instead. Four times this happened, four times I walked through the fire and four times I came through the fire.
Thoroughly inspired, I decided to sit. My coffee could wait, this was a date with destiny--A Divine invitation to a conversation and I couldn’t help but ask, “John, do you believe in Jesus?” He turned tearful eyes to me and said, “Absolutely! That’s who saved me. The Devil’s been trying to take me out ever since, I’ve seen him three times in visions, but I’m not giving in. I told God (he continued) when I die just let me go to hell first so I can kill that devil before I come to heaven. But God said ‘No, John, I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll handle that devil and I’ll take care of you.”
The conversation continued about the war, the Lord, his Catholic mother and some others who had impacted him along the way. He had a lot to say. He told me he was a Baptist, and an artist originally from New York--Staten Island--no less! I cheerfully confessed that I too was an artist originally from New York--Long Island--go figure! Well isn’t that somethin?.
I figured we must have talked another 20 minutes about life and art and as I watched him depart I wished I had more time together with this beautiful stranger. Isn’t it strange what can happen when you have mocha on your mind and you mindlessly park a block and a half out of the way? The walk will do me good, I said, and, in fact, it did better than that--it made my day.