Last Tuesday I decided to have lunch west of here at the Chinese buffet and as soon as I walked in I saw the wise old man seated in a corner. He motioned for me to come join him. I did and ordered a pot of hot tea and asked, “Sir, do you want anything else from the buffet.” He said he was good with his plate of mushrooms, broccoli and fruit, so I went on through the line.
When I returned, I saw that he was eating slowly and meditatively, with chopsticks. “Were you ever in the Orient,” I asked. “Oh, yes, Dan. You can’t name many places on the globe where I have not been. This feast before us is not Oriental food. It bears little resemblance to the fine dishes one finds over there.”
“How long have you been out of Hillsboro Manor, sir?”
“I walked out a couple of months ago. Juanita and another nurse or CNA were trying to find a vein and couldn’t and they left the room to get help so I grabbed up some stuff and left through the window. Didn’t they call you?”
“No, sir. I assumed you were still over there. I know they had my number.”
“They probably called the law, or the social workers. Anyway, I got to feeling a lot better once I left that place. I had a buck or two, so I caught the bus to Dallas and I was staying in the homeless shelter over there. I think you showed up there once, huh?”
“Yes, during the tornado. That’s a nice place.”
“If that’s what you want to call nice. Anyway, Dan, I am doing a lot better and I am on my way to see Keats and Shelley down at the old home place. They are looking after things for me down there.”
“Yes. Oh, yeah, you met them. Nice boys and they are good hands on the place.” As the wise old man finished up his mushrooms, he said, “Now Dan, what I have learned in the past six months is a reconfirmation of something I already knew but denied: It is not about me. I mean every situation you are in that you think is about you—think again, it isn’t. That knowledge takes a load off, son.”
“What if it is something about reputation? What if people say things about you that are untrue?”
“Well, son, if it is a lie, it is about the liar, not about him or her who is lied about.”
“What if it hurts you financially, socially, relationally and so forth?”
“If a man takes your shirt, give him your jacket, too. If he damages your reputation, tell him to just keep talking. Turn the other cheek, you know. Dan, I don’t want to hear any more ‘what-ifs’ today. Just remember it is not about you. You are not the target. Can you give me a ride to the fairgrounds? I’m meeting a lady at the pavilion.”
I gave him a ride.