There’s this man that’s been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. This man always backed his Ford vehicle into my parents’ asphalt drive. He’d back the vehicle in such a way that it was clear he was a person who did things just-so. The front wheels were parked straight forward. The back wheels were always in line with this little tire-well my dad’s old squad cars made from the years of parking in the same spot.
Sometimes this man would arrive just before my dad pulled in and called 10-22. When the man got out of his car he was usually wearing one of two things, but one always felt a little more comfortable to me. The off times he wasn’t wearing an old Army fatigue, he would wear a uniform he wore at his civilian job. But for some reason, watching the man park, open his door, and hearing the black combat boots, one after another, hit the asphalt was somehow comforting. His fatigue pants were always bloused, until he got much older. He wore a belt and had uniform-approved t-shirt on tucked into his nylon belt. If it was cold, this man would wear a blouse with his name tape seen on. His hair was always high and tight. His face clean. Even as the hairs grayed and thinned over the years, he was always high and tight and clean.
This man was notorious for kissing women behind the ear. He used to tell me when I was old enough I’d be kissed, too. That scared me and would probably sound like sexual intimidation and whatnot, but I don’t think it was. He never did kiss me behind the ear. When he looked at me it was different. He didn’t treat me like he did other females. When he looked at me it was this deep stare. Feeling me out kind of thing. I noticed as I got older, he didn’t treat me like other males in his realm, either. He didn’t try to prove anything for me or push dominance. He treated me with what I now understand as respect.
I went off to college, got married, lived my own life. I didn’t see him for four or five years. I married into the military and that changes a lot about a person. Our eyes are opened to more. We see life differently than people who do not have first hand experience of military families nor the other men/women serving our country.
This man was a hard man. He told his “war” stories. He repeated lessons he’d learned. I always listened. This man over the years got harder and more set in his ways. He got to the point where he really was out spoken about hating people. And honestly, I don’t blame him.
I don’t know or profess to know him well or know his story, but I see myself in him. He went to war. Served his country until the country decided he was no longer fit for duty. He fit in and had a place with his military brothers. I may not have gone to a war-torn country and lived or put my life on the line, but I’ve left everything I knew to pursue the unknown. To make what I thought was a better life for myself and others in my realm. Having moved to a place where I feel life-commroadry with the people I’m around, I get why he didn’t want to leave. When you’re with the people who have a certain lifestyle like yours they just “get” you. I don’t have to explain the feelings or the issues, it’s just known and the relationships go deeper quickly. I haven’t been in a position to have to choose to kill or be killed. I’ve not been in a position where I had to defend my country with my body.
But I have been in the position of hating people. People tend to be so full of themselves. People don’t tend to take time to get to know one another nor do we love each other well. When I say love each other well, I mean be a safe place for people to share issues of the heart. We tend to write people off because they behave a certain way. We don’t investigate further to find some sort of sympathy or understanding. In fact if we can’t find the answer by Facebook stalking, then we move on, form our own opinions and judgements and that’s it. Yes, there is a thing where we put up boundaries and whatnot to keep us safe from emotional hurts. I’m not talking about taking on another person’s burdens and life stories as our own. I’m simply saying– what if we just asked more questions? Listened to what is unspoken?
What if we started a thing where we looked at people for their heart matters and not their tattoos, excessive piercings, their kissing behind the ear, their repetitive war stories?
What if we realized repetitive stories are all the person has on his heart? Maybe he is processing some junk or finding some self-worth by sharing? What if we were kind and began slipping into the hards and feet of Jesus in these moments? What if we talked like we were at the well with everyone?
What if we did this with more people? What if we became a safe place for others? What if we felt it was okay to be known by others? Because whether we admit it or not, God already knows.
This man died recently in a horrific way. I’m struggling to process the grief. This man, though came across and was an asshole, was a man who deserved more. And I wish I had been present more. I wish I had engaged more. I wish I had one more time to see him and tell him, “I see you. I know.”