Once a wise man came, from where nobody knew, but came he did and it was not so long ago.
He traveled wide and far, as most wise men tends to do, in real life and in stories. He did not want to be less then any other person, so he traveled all around, to see what had happened to the world since last he visited. Now you might think this is some god or some famous person come to life, but he is neither and as such all the more important.
After spending many months on the road he came to a city, and decided that he had traveled enough, seen what he wanted to see. So in this city that has a name, but the name is as important as the name of the man.
He went to a cafe, sat slowly down on a plastic chair that had seen better times, much like he had.
Not being in any rush he waited painterly for someone to come and take his order. It took some time, but he used the waiting to watch the people stressing by, smiling at them, that kind of warm smile some people have, they are born with it, it just can’t be faked.
Maybe 30 minutes after he had sat down a busy waiter came to him, why he was busy I do not know, as the old man was the only one at the cafe.
“What can I get you,” he asked a bit stressed, but not unfriendly.
“That is a big question, what can you get me?” the man replied, still smiling.
From most people this kind of question would get people put off, but a warm smile will smooth over most things.
The waiter laughed and shook his head.
“What can I get you from the menu? Is that a better question for you sir?”
The old man nodded, browsed the menu he had not picked up since he sat down.
“Nothing from the menu. Maybe you have some time to sit down and have a chat?”
The waiter looked around the empty local, raised his shoulder in that kind of, I am busy but I will give you a few minutes, kind of shrug, and sat down.
The old man explained he had been traveling a lot, seen much but understood very little.
“Well who can understand the world?” the waiter answered.
“Just the way I feel. But I have not been out much in many years and you have, so maybe you know better?”
“Maybe I can, anything is possible. What do you wonder about, my great wisdom will help you old man,” he laughed as he said it. Not bragging, just making a joke with some self irony, a most important trait for any person.
“The more I talk with you, the more I think you really can help me. Can you tell me why people are so selfish?”
“Selfish?” the waiter did not understand his question.
“Yes, selfish. You see as I traveled I of course saw people helping those close to them, but few help anybody else, always thinking what they could get and not what they could give. Some gave money for charity, that is true, but they gave only money and gave no dignity. So why are people so selfish?”
“Life is hard, you can not help everybody, sometimes not even your close family. Is it not enough to help the people close to you?”
The waiter, maybe not looking the most intellectual, was in fact deeper then most, when he had time that is, life was very stressful for him.
“I understand,” the old man nodded and thought some more.
“But is it not true also that if you help more people, they will also start helping you, so everything will be better for everyone. If I give 5 dollars to a poor person, he/she only gets 5 dollars and pay with their dignity You help a bit and hurt a bit, you see?”
The waiter nodded and waited for what the man should say next.
“Maybe in turn you could ask the person for help, something you need that he/she can do for you? You feel good about helping and the person feel good about doing something for you.”
“But life does not work that way. Have you not seen this in all your travels. People are not that nice, you can get hurt or they just take your money and leave.”
“That is also true, you are of course correct. Life is complicated is it not?”
The waiter agreed with this obvious statement.
The old man stood up, “Then I think it is time for me to go, but thank you for talking with me.”
“You are welcome, that was nothing, I had the time to do it.”
“See you gave me something and so did I for you,” and with that the old man left, slowly walking and looking at all around him as his feet hit the crumbling sidewalk, one step at a time.
The waiter stood up, on the table he saw a 5 dollar bill, strange he had not seen that before.
“Old man you forgot your money!”
“It is your money now. I got it in another city when I had no money. I helped that person and as I did it turned out I did not need the money anymore. Maybe you needed it for something!”
The waiter looked at the bill. It struck him how old and raggedy it looked. Taking a closer look he saw the bill really was really old, from 1929.
“Imagine that,” he thought and again looked up at the old man, still walking down the side walk.