I remembered him today — the man in the elevator. He was a stranger to me. And strangers riding elevators abide by certain unspoken rules. “Respect my invisible physical boundary.” “Stay as far away from me as possible.” Conversations are highly discouraged. A blank stare or non-eye contact means “do not disturb” so don’t talk to me.
But in that brief ride with this man in the elevator, there was that something that connected one soul to the other. That nameless energy that makes us open up and invite people to enter our space. We broke the unspoken rule simultaneously.
Our gazes locked. He smiled. I smiled.
He started a conversation by asking questions about the clinic hours at the fourth floor of our building. When he realized that he was an hour early, he asked if he could wait in our office.
I hesitated a bit but ended up saying ‘yes’.
He shared his life story — his family, his separation from his wife, his health, and how he survived a diabetic coma when his blood sugar became dangerously low.
I listened mostly. I confess, at one point, I did wonder what I had gotten myself into.
When he learned that we were offering programs for toddlers, he gave the names of his nephew and niece, who were twins, and his contact number.
Then it was time for him to visit his doctor. I thought that was the end of that encounter.
A few days later, the man in the elevator returned to the office – with three white roses and a card. I was surprised and a bit flustered. Did he misinterpret my kindness? I mean, he was old enough to be my father.
Sensing my uncertainty, he reassured me quickly. “No, no. It’s not what you think. I just came back to say thank you for being a friend.”
I remembered him today as I was cleaning out my cabinet and stumbled upon the box where I kept the cards I had received through the years.
Tito. That was the name he signed with on the card. The roses have long wilted and I am about to dispose this box of cards but I will always remember that brief encounter and what happened thereafter.
A month after he gave me his gifts of appreciation, I called up the number to invite the twins to our Play and Learn program.
It was then I learned that Tito had passed away.
I was shocked into silence. He was gone! Just like that. He was gone. I was very quiet that day.
“Tito, thank you for reminding me then and now that if there be any kindness I can show or any good thing I can do, let me be open and willing enough to listen to inner guidance and to have the courage to say ‘yes’ again and again. Thank you for being part of my story. Our stories. I remember you.”
And God softly whispered, “You have met your angel today.”
“We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.” ― Luciano De Crescenzo