Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Calm (emotionally) (09/13/07)
TITLE: The Hitchhiker and the Idol
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He was blond from the bleaching Arizona sun and his hair was long. His eyes were sparkling blue, crystalline like the desert sand. He was in the forefront of the health food fad while I was still fresh from the streets of Chicago, smoking cigarettes and living on coffee.
I remember the evening ritual of sitting around the edges of a living room listening to music, with Wally and his roommates, the guys who had picked me up hitchhiking from Chicago on my adolescent pilgrimage to California. We sat around, not talking much, at least not me. I sat thrilled just to be included with this ‘far-out’ group of friends, amazed that they apparently couldn’t see my inner panic under the thin veneer of teenaged cool. Since I felt as if I were so different from everyone else, I was sure no one would understand a single bit of what I was thinking. I stored everything up like a sponge and wrung it out in the novels I would write later.
Wally, on the other hand, laughed easily and looked everyone steadily in the eye. I remember how, once when I was finishing breakfast with a cigarette, he looked at me calmly as he asked me “Why do you still do that to yourself?" My own brothers or my parents had never asked me a question like that.
I admired Wally so much that for a few months I even imitated his calm, nasally voice. A mutual friend even asked me once on the phone why I was talking like Wally. Talking like Wally; I wanted to be Wally!
I left Arizona and continued on hitching across the county. I lost much of my anxiety along with my adolescence and gained more confidence in who I was, without having to imitate people I admired, like Wally. Years later I met a mutual friend who told me that Wally had attempted suicide and had checked himself into a mental hospital.
I cannot describe the disillusionment I felt. What was Wally’s calm all about? Where did he get that peaceful appearance and steady eye only to fall apart? If his peaceful calmness was so fragile, why did it appear so strong to me?
I couldn’t answer those questions for years until I came to understand a source of peace that was beyond human comprehension, a peace that can only be given to man, but never achieved or obtained. It is a peace that goes beyond just being emotionally calm. It is a peace that is quickening to the spirit and healing to the mind. It can never be taken away; it can only be lost by neglect or carelessness. It grows when it is shared.
It’s been over 30 years since I’ve seen or heard of Wally. I don’t even remember his last name. I still admire the calm spirit he had. I can only imagine his beauty of character if I could have shared with him the peace that I’ve accepted as a gift of God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).
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