Of course, people would regularly assume the opposite. But Henry, eyes bulging out of his skull as the result of his thyroid condition, never shied away from striking up a conversation. Though unforgivingly designated a horribly deformed, insatiable monster back in grade school, Henry tried instead to think of himself as the strange-looking boy everyone avoided talking to because they assumed he preferred the company of books. Being bright and overly sympathetic, though, Henry couldn’t blame the other children for not taking the chance they might be his midday snack. Despite his best effort to pretend he was Henry the Reader, to all the other children he was Henry the Eater. Children, such cruel creatures.

Given history, Henry made it a point never to be cruel; it would have been much easier as an adult to cave into issues born out of the past, but if not for hope what else did he have? Henry had read about the road less traveled once and decided he’d always go that way. The road less traveled was the eternal promise that something remarkable would happen some day.

In not knowing the history of other people – who knows who else was alienated as a child – Henry regularly started conversations with strangers. Despite mixed results at best, the optimistic book lover always considered the occasional good result better than no result at all. Although people were often taken aback by Henry’s appearance, there were some good people out there, too.

Today, Henry encountered a half-hooded middle-aged man he’d never seen before standing at the bus stop. Henry figured what with the man’s few grey hairs, a trace or two of lines in his face and happily humming a slightly familiar tune, that this stranger might, just possibly, be amicable enough to look passed appearances today.

In approaching strangers, Henry rarely made direct eye contact. Instead, he preferred to stand close enough to someone to let them know he was probably speaking to them. (Henry had read in a scientific journal that this was a way of approaching people most found unthreatening.) Close to the man’s shoulder, he said, “I say, not to sound trite, but it’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?”

The man didn’t make direct eye contact either. The man tilted his head just a bit in Henry’s direction and replied almost inaudibly, “In the tree by the brook, there’s a songbird who sings, sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiving.”

Henry’s eyes widened as this sagacious stranger – wise beyond their apparent years – had just imparted great insight concerning the human condition. Yes, too often, much too often all of our thoughts are misgiving, Henry considered in silence. And if we know our thoughts are misgiving, well, that’s an important step towards treating each other with compassion. Henry would pass this information along to everyone and anyone who would listen.

When the bus arrived and opened its doors for boarding, the middle-aged man stepped back and allowed some other riders and Henry to board first. Catching a good glimpse of Henry, the half-hooded man thought to himself, Yikes, that man looks as though he could eat me, as he adjusted the volume on his headphones.

 

All Rights Reserved © July 2016 John J Vinacci

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