“So this is how it ends …”
I was so focused on getting back to my office; the woman caught me by surprise. Was that a question seeking resolution, a declaration demanding attention, or merely a statement of the obvious? Her face offered few grammatical clues as to what should go at the end of those words. Weathered by years of standing in the hot Florida sun holding her “Need Help” sign, it was difficult to tell where the cardboard plea ended and the human being began. From my viewpoint, she probably had ceased needing the advertisement years earlier.
That’s when I broke my rule: the one about not getting involved with the invisible people I pass every day on the way to work. And we have our share of them. There’s the Thai lady dressed all in white holding a mask to her face and never making a sound. There’s the Vietnam vet that runs constantly, shirtless (summer and winter), and waving a small American flag on a homemade stick. And I mustn’t forget our own local Jesus standing with his cross on the Bay Bridge for decades before simply disappearing one day. Each of them a curiosity to those passing through and transparent to the locals. To me. Until today.
“What was that” I asked?
She laid her sign down on the bus stop bench and stared my way. “Did you think my ellipsis was intended to illicit a rejoinder out of you young man?”
Ellipsis? Illicit? Rejoinder? Had this odd woman with the cardinal red hat and one ragged glove found an old copy of Readers Digest? No; it was plain by the sentence she was well aware of the vocabulary she was using. At least I was fairly sure. To my own embarrassment, I couldn’t remember what an ellipsis was.
Without thinking, I repeated the word, “Ellipsis?”
“Yeah, you know, ellipsis.” With that she grabbed her precious sign and held it up for the next wave of blind motorists escaping the red light now turned green. “For someone that looks educated,” she yelled over the roar of the passing traffic, “you sure don’t sound too intelligent.”
Her sarcasm instantly reminded me of why I had my rule and what an idiot I had been to break it. There was a reason those people were invisible. But even as I tried to justify my thoughts I knew better. I knew deep in my gut there is no such thing as “those people.” Our pastor spoke of this constantly and now Christ was reminding me.
I left the woman holding up her sign and walked across the simmering parking lot toward McDonalds. There would be time later to sell yet another couple an even bigger house they didn’t really need. Returning, with a bag full of cholesterol and two large iced teas, I sat on the bench.
“Would you like to have lunch with me?”
The woman turned looking afraid to smile lest she crack her sun baked skin. “You want me to eat with you?”
I nodded and passed the bag her way. There was an uneasy silence as I looked into her eyes, searching for something to say. “A few minutes ago you said, ‘so this is how it ends.’ Was there a question mark there? I mean, can I help in some way.”
“No, no question mark. Only …”
“An ellipsis;” I completed her sentence for her. “Sorry, my High School grammar just came back to me.”
For the first time, she risked the smile; “Yes son; that’s exactly what it was … an ellipsis. I would say that pretty well sums it up for me. Things started so wonderfully: college sweetheart, a degree in English Literature, and a precious little girl.” She paused for a moment, tears forming in the corners of her brilliant blue eyes as the smile faded; “Everything since then has been an ellipsis. Just dots indicating a string of omissions.”
I reached into my coat and pulled out my compact pocket Bible. As I read, we both found something. For her it was a new beginning with the Christ she had ignored in the ellipsis of her heart. And for me? Let’s just say it was the end of invisible people.
I wonder what happened to our own local Jesus that stood all those years on the Bay Bridge with that cross?
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