You just keep doin’ your thing, man

I leave the office at the end of the workday and start my trek from South Congress to the North side of Austin. It’s a stop and go drive. I don’t mind it much because it gives me time to ponder life. Lately I’ve been pondering a man in a green t-shirt who waves at passersby on my way home.

Green t-shirt guy hangs out for hours after work down by the Home Depot exit where day-workers have been and gone home. I see him there at 5:30 and sometimes at 7:00. He’s a middle-aged, mustached man always wearing a green t-shirt. Sometimes there’s a red bike nearby, other times a red bag, and he’s always waving. He doesn’t wave to the air, he waves right at you.

I don’t know what his deal is. It’s easy to think he’s mentally or emotionally stunted but I know outward appearances usually only tell clichéd stories my brain conjures up. He might just be a really friendly dude who loves green t-shirts. At first it surprised me, then after seeing him nearly every weekday for a month I started waving back.

The real situation doesn’t matter to me much. All I know is it makes me feel something. Something good. Something nice. I’ll miss it when when he’s gone. I don’t know exactly what that feeling is but I’ve had similar feelings at other times.

It’s come from the hand on the soft part of my arm from the girl who loves me or from the reassuring palm on my back from a mentor or someone else I look up to. The human touch has power to transform a mind and heal a heart.

I’ve also felt it watching a kid playing quietly with his toys unaware that anyone was watching. You know the moment – the motor sounds, the dialogue between make-believe strangers, the motion of limb and mind. There is nothing quite as touching as a good-natured child at play, unobserved. To watch is to continually be on the verge of delight at the next thing they do. The anticipation is a soothing ether – warm fuzzies to massage the back of your brain.

Interesting thought, that: To continually be on the verge of delight in someone. I know people like that. They’re just good natured people who think the best of you, always interested and encouraging. There are the other kind, of course, always on the verge of being disappointed by someone – their kid, their lover, or people in general. Poor lot they are.

I guess that’s part of why I’m so surprised by this guy. Middle-aged, mustached men on the side of the road aren’t particularly cute. Not a likely source of warm fuzzies at all, really, but he’s just doing his thing, waving at people for hours, like a child at play, unobserved. I find myself on the verge of being delighted every time I drive down that road. Then I find myself on the verge of being delighted throughout the day, half expecting to see another something like it – anything like it – someone just doing their thing in plain sight, as if unobserved.

Friends who know me well also know about my spiritual journey. Most people have a “God of your own understanding” if you will. I am not terribly or traditionally religious, mind you, but my life’s path has forced me to make up my mind about a few things, including God. In my experience, I have come to understand God as incredibly good-natured. I’ve come to understand that he has a thing for the bluntly honest, the bottom-hitters, and the poor. My heart is full these days and my life is good beyond what I deserve. All I’ve done is work hard and be as honest as I know how. If your version of God seems to be continually on the verge of disappointment with you or everyone around you, maybe you could borrow mine for a while. Mine seems to be on the verge of delight with the next plain old me-thing I might do when I think nobody is watching. I don’t see any reason for him to be different about you or anyone else.

Every day I drive down Woodard and wave back at the man in the green t-shirt I think to myself, what freak’n cool worlds I have – the world within and the world without, as Buechner says. I’m grateful.

To my mustached friend and to you, my friend, I say what Strongbad says to Strongmad in the epic Trogdor episode, “Strongmad? You jus… keep doin’ your thing, man.” Like a child, at play, unobserved.