By Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Author’s Program Note. How’s your knowledge of Korean pop music? I thought so and yet Song Gol Mae produced in 1981 the perfect song for this article. It’s called “Chance Encounter”… and in this dangerous world most of us assiduously avoid them, the odds of catastrophe going up, we reckon, as we — and the earth — age together.
And yet… chance encounters intrigue us… entertain us… bemuse and make us wonder whether there is a thing called “fate”… and what else it has in store for us.
Why I went out so early today, well before the dawn…
My colleagues, my family, my friends and even some of the millions of people who do me the honor of reading whatever’s on my mind as it morphs into electronic and paper printed articles… these folks have been ganging up on me for some time now. Here’s just a sample of what they pepper me with early and late; all for my own good of course:
“All work and no play…” (an aphorism so well known in our overworked day that no one ever finishes it; so I shall: “make Jack a dull boy.” (I wouldn’t know, since I prune dull boys from my acquaintance with deft alacrity, especially those named Jack).
“You know you ARE over 60, old man; slow down and smell the roses”… or the coffee… or whatever they deem worthy of slowing down for and sniffing. For the record, I detest coffee, always have, and think that a substance silent but deadly should shroud all who imbibe it, the more so because those who drink it cannot resist discussing it, reliving every drop they have ever had… ad nauseam… As for roses, ever since the florist industry had the brainchild of breeding roses without scent, I have transferred my respect, admiration — and nose — to other flora which shall not be mentioned here, lest the florists again take aim at that scent, too. Mum’s the word.
“You’ve got more money than God. Why don’t you spend some it, Scrooge?” They little know that I’m wildly extravagant about what I like… and parsimonious to a degree about things I don’t. Clothes, for instance, being in my book a complete waste of money; I buy them solely to help the economy and to spare the sensitivities of my delicate neighbors who most assuredly would carp and cavil at the horror of seeing too much of me; a man who thought he was completely satisfactorily (un) dressed at birth. And has never wavered on this point, making sure to seize every opportunity to look one’s best and most natural by shedding clothes like so many autumn leaves.
You get the picture.
I have become a “cause”… something discussed… considered… evaluated and — horrors — advised; advice being something which I alone own and have the right to proffer, as a commentator. It is insufferable… and so to get the discussion back where it well and truly belongs — to my always limpid, insightful, and, yes, lyric prose… my particular forte, I resolved to get up and out of my curial arm chair; the style developed for the consuls of ancient Rome, and thus entirely suitable for me, for whom every gesture of the imperial Caesars is holy and revived.
The hour was early, early, the weather deleterious and wet.
I own I did consider the matter (fleetingly but completely) about whether to venture out, but I concluded that the well meant yapping of all and sundry would never cease until I made a gesture (however insincere) to the well-meaning, something to close the case and shut them up.
Then, earlier than usual, I saw the Boston Globe at my door and two stories on the front page any other day I would have stopped to read, whether I was wearing a towel — or not. Commentators have their rights and privileges, you know. And so I left the Honorable Sarah’s decision not to burden the nation with a campaign which, above all else, would have caused national regret that we ever bought Alaska, “Seward’s Folly” well and truly named. She could wait.
The death of Steve Jobs, of Apple fame, screamed out for my erudite comments, one of my celebrated “Appreciations for the life and work of….” But this, too, would have to wait. He, at least, deserves the best of which my pen is capable… though I never owned or wanted his celebrated machine.
Out I went.
The first thing I noticed how, well before the dawn, the streets are as busy as rush hour. That was a revelation… and a double caution. For openers for the season’s first black ice. Then, secondly, for the need to look carefully to avoid either falling into one of the deep crevasses of the side walk which, when covered by the snow whose arrival will be all too soon, could be deadly … or being crushed into eternity by the all-too-numerous traffic. I had no idea…
But the traffic forced me to heed the traffic signals… and one glance compelled another. These signals, glazed with the rain of the night and the mists of the morning, glistened; thereby proving that even in the most utilitarian of objects there is beauty… if one takes a minute to pause, observe — and sniff.
I walked into Harvard Square which, our own Times Square, never sleeps, not least because it harbors a wide population of the homeless and down trodden. One perhaps sensing (with the practised eye of one who lives or dies by such observations) that I was a “friendly” stepped out of the alcove of the Harvard COOP, a bold movement at any other time I would have ignored.
… But he looked cold, hungry and (important) harmless. How fast such decisions are made for all that they can change lives.
I asked him the superfluous question about whether he was hungry and, not having a penny on me, invited him to breakfast chez moi, audacious for me to offer; audacious for him to accept. And so my encounter with Matt, aged 31, (I guessed 23) commenced. It was a story of better times; then actions and events which cost him everything. But the story I saw was in the bafflement in his eyes and a smile which was once entirely compelling; now just a residue. He came, he ate, he talked of his journeys. Then he told me that God is in each charitable act and that God would bless me this day.
And so he went, and though I gave him my card and told him to return if necessary, I sensed I should never see him again; thus he will never know of this article.
But he was right, God blessed me today with these words, and I was, therefore, not irritated or insulted when he, at the door, asked for $5; I gave him $10. He said it would pay for washing his weary clothes. May it do him some good and me, too.
Now go to any search engine and find “Chance Encounter”. One is coming soon to change your life, too.
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About The Author
Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., where small and home-based businesses learn how to profit online. Dr. Lant is also a syndicated writer and author of 18 best-selling business books. Details at worldprofit.com and JeffreyLantArticles.com
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