"Excuse me miss, would you mind pushing me up the hill? I'll give you a dollar?"
Mark was in a wheelchair because he had broken both of his legs and they were sticking out straight in front of him in two casts. From the looks of it, it also seemed as if he spent the majority of his time on the streets. I assured Mark that I didn't need the dollar because he was actually helping me out. I hadn't done a workout for the day, and some good resistance training seemed like a pretty awesome workout to me. It was a win, win. He laughed loudly at this, but continued to offer his dollar as a thank you.
By the time we reached the top of the hill Mark began to talk. And talk. And talk some more. We covered everything from the precious time he spent with his Dad fishing, to his time in the war, to how he volunteers at the Veteran's Center talking with soldiers dealing with PTSD, to his buddy Jim, to his tattoos and what they all mean (as well as up close views once he wiggled his shirt off), to Fort Bragg, to his childhood, and everything in between. Sometimes he laughed loudly and other times he'd cry unexpectedly, but more than anything he just kept talking.
Not all of it made sense but I don't necessarily blame that on Mark's inability to always form coherent thoughts, as much as I think it was him trying to get it all out. His stories. His life. Him. In the middle of the conversation he stopped and said, "you know what I like the most? You just standing here talking to me. Us just being able to talk. Nobody really does that." But before I could respond he was telling me another story.
I am not the chit chat with strangers type. Anybody that knows me will tell you that. I hate small talk and I avoid awkward conversations as much as possible. But there I was an hour later still listening to the same stories be re-told because I realized it made someone else happy to be able to share his stories with me. When it was time for me to finally get going I asked if there was anything he would like me to remember to pray about for him and all he said was, "No, I'm ok. Just pray for the soldiers coming home."
This has nothing to do with anything except that sometimes the encounters that don't seem like anything seem to leave the biggest impression and teach you the most valuable lessons. Of course I prayed for Mark, but I also prayed that I could learn to be more like him in a lot of ways.