Steve was seated in the front passenger seat of my car.
“I was sitting, elbows on my knees, hands covering most of my face and I was filled with despair,” he said. “My position had me looking down. That’s why I noticed his worn, ragged shoes before anything else.”
We were talking about how each person’s adopted attitude changes his or her life experience. I asked Steve if he had ever told me about his own attitude changing experience. He hadn’t, but offered it now.
Steve left his home in the United States more than 35 years ago and was working in Korea.
“I had everything then.” he said. “I had no worries about money and no other entanglements holding me back. I was fully engaged in my work. Everything was great!”
But everything wasn’t so great.
“I was feeling depressed. Depressed!” he said. “Even though I was of the opinion I had it all, there I was, sitting there, head in hands, feeling hapless — until I saw those shoes and everything that came with them.”
And what came with those shoes?
“My eyes followed up to tattered dirty pants, a filthy shirt and a threadbare coat,” he said. “Then an arm, stubbed at the end, reached out to me in a gesture of asking.”
Steve continued describing his implausible rescuer, telling me the man’s other arm was not fully developed. His mouth was almost absent of teeth and he was clearly mentally challenged. Yet, his smiling face beamed with pure joy.
“When I saw his smile, I remember thinking, ‘What am I doing! I have it all and I’m not happy! I need to emulate this great man’s attitude!’”
At that moment, Steve reached into his pocket and pulled out every bit of money he had with him as a tribute for the lesson he had just been taught. He placed and balanced the money on the man’s stubby arm, and watched. The man deftly shifted his arm and allowed his reward to drop safely into his coat pocket. Then he bowed deeply toward Steve, showing his gratitude. He left Steve a changed man. They never met again.
“That smile, the biggest smile, changed my position!” Steve said. “I was no longer sitting there with my head in my hands, filled with despair. I was looking up! That man still has me looking up! I’ll never forget the biggest smile I’ve ever seen!”
Lynn Butterfield is a resident of Erda and a managing broker for a real estate company.