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An insignificant man imparts the truth of wisdom and peace.
Jeffrey (George) Winter
Journalist, counselor, author.
AUTHOR'S E-MAIL ADDRESS
|AUTHOR'S OTHER TITLES (10)
Heaven Is Hell's Fire (Poetry) - [108 words] [Spiritual]
Justice Come Due (Poetry) God's reply to justice. [95 words] [Spiritual]
Love Denied (Poetry) - [171 words] [Spiritual]
Strength's Illusion (Essays) A visit with a disabled friend: How our understandings of strength affect our relationships. [1,696 words] [Spiritual]
The Adventure Of Human Freedom (Essays) As title indicates. [1,149 words] [Spiritual]
The Power Of Surrender (Short Stories) A good man takes on evil. [1,431 words] [Spiritual]
The Way We Actually Were (Short Stories) Recollections from a veteran of the Third Reich. [1,337 words] [History]
The Weapon Of Hope (Short Stories) When all else fails, there is hope. Three short stories reveals where lies ours. [1,385 words] [Spiritual]
Tied By The Heart (Essays) Does our freedom ensnares us? [1,128 words] [Spiritual]
Wisdom Dug Out Of Dirt (Short Stories) The wealth possessed by a poor, old farmer. [1,032 words] [Biography]
Jeffrey (George) Winter
“The wind don’t need the sailor,” he said between sips of beer, “but without the wind, the sailor is lost.”
In the background, pool balls cracked against each other, voices shouted over the blare of music and bells rang out on pinball machines next to the restroom. Outside, a soft rain fell on the dirty South Chicago streets. I glanced at the long-haired fellow sitting to my left and then back at the bony, angular old man sitting on my right.
“What was that Ed?” I asked in surprise figuring my friend had tipped one too many, “Wind, sailors, what are you talking about? I think it’s time to go home.”
He stared back at me like a man does when he’s said something important but the recipient just didn’t catch the significance. “You gotta work early tomorrow?” he asked, “If not, let’s take a little walk.”
I did have to get back to the church first thing the next day for a council meeting. Something I rarely looked forward to given the absence of any genuine communication much less any authentic progress toward “bringing people to Christ”. Which was after all our mission, or so said the statement adorning the wall in the beautiful old church lobby.
What the heck, I figured, I didn’t need much sleep for that and so agreed.
“Where should we go?” I asked Ed as he stepped off his bar stool.
“Down by the lake,” was all he said, gulping his glass clean and then wiping his mouth with a dirty, ragged sleeve.
“Okay by me,” I replied sliding off my barstool, “Let’s go, it’s getting late.”
As the door closed behind us, the noisy racket drifted away and in its stead, we were greeted by a silent, clearing sky and gentle wind that creased the puddles. Aside from a few cars whose tires whooshed through the wet streets, the only sounds were those of our worn boots against pavement. And the soft, gentle wind.
Neither of us said a word for two blocks as we crossed the last street before entering Calumet Park which sat on the edge of Lake Michigan. A few cars crawled around the park, their distant headlights the only thing breaking the fog’s darkness. Across the bay, dim beams highlighted the lake’s mist as they coursed through the night from the few remaining factories operating on their third shift.
“Listen,” Ed said, face bearing a weathered smile that wore more defeats than victories, “Isn’t it beautiful?”
My ears strained to pick up whatever it was that brought him so much delight. And I heard…nothing. Just silence. Broken by the wind and heightened by the contrast of an occasional fog horn or muffled car engine.
Strangely though, the empty silence seemed to hold a mysterious allure.
Maybe it was the escape from the everyday rush and bustle of Chicago. Or a momentary refuge from the pressures of trying to accomplish a thousand and one things at the understaffed church that carried more expectations than it could reasonably expect to fulfill.
Maybe it was any of a million different cares being put aside for a moment. Finding a brief respite in the fog and night that stilled them.
Whatever it was, I had to admit it was enjoyable. As our steps neared a breaker at the park’s southeast corner, we slowed to a stop. Moving to the edge of the breaker, Ed lifted his eyes far over the murky water as waves smacked dead fish eerily against the cement structure.
I watched as his glance peered from north to south and then back again. Taking in the distant lights shrouded by fog, the muffled ship horns and the coursing waves. And from the look his eyes, much more.
Stepping away from water’s edge, Ed turned and examined me through the heavy mist. Looking back, I noticed his eyes. They held a tear. And as it dropped, more followed.
“You must see this!” he said, extending his beaten old hand and guiding me to breaker’s edge. Upon his grip’s release, I felt its reassuring warmth leave my hand as I stood alone looking out over the black sea of water, churned now by an increasingly fierce wind that whipped large raindrops on my unprotected head. It was growing colder and the water’s edge felt bleak and dangerous.
Yet, I couldn’t move. Didn’t want to move. Something held me there, something akin to awe. Or reverence. Or gratitude. Those things my fellow church workers preached about time and again but never seemed able to find or by that, share.
Perhaps they’d never been to water’s edge. Or maybe it was something else. Whatever it was, I felt a strange twinge of pity for even the most difficult of my co-workers and fellow missionaries. In all likelihood, they’d never found this “place” through all their years of studying, preaching, debating and searching because going to the water’s edge wouldn’t fit in. In fact, that was what they proposed to rescue “lost” people from in their ambitious and justified gatherings.
Lost in this new yet somehow ancient wonder, I listened breathlessly and without effort. Like a chorus of celebration, the wind strummed firmly but gently as the waves struck the breaker in unison. Intermittent horns interjected a harmonic beat and the steady rain provided a constant and soothing background.
For what seemed forever but was actually only a minute, I stood entranced by the awesome and profound simplicity enveloping me. Swept away by the stillness within the chorus around me, carried away by peacefulness and its quiet and seemingly endless source. Ed watched with the same delight he held moments earlier when he himself was on water’s edge.
“You see now,” he said with a knowing glance, smile melting the fog, “I think it’s time to head home. You’ve got a meeting.”
So I did. And so he knew. How very much he knew!
And he’d known for some time. Of peace and truth and value. And the simplicity of wisdom. Yet few would hear, fewer still would acknowledge.
He didn’t wear the right clothes. He’d taken too many wrong turns on life’s road. He just didn’t look the part of sage and hadn’t earned the right to be heard. As many of my more stellar counterparts at the church and mission had often observed, “He’s insignificant and aimless, best avoided.”
We shook hands and patted each other on the shoulder as we regularly did in parting. I told Ed I’d see him on the streets in a couple of days. Then we departed in opposite directions.
Walking away into the now perfectly still and rainless night, I heard a soft gentle wind blowing through the trees leaves. My thoughts turned to the upcoming meeting, the arguments, the egos, the self-righteousness. The waste. I realized I couldn’t do much about it because, like Ed, I now knew too much to so squander my precious time. I knew too that those squabbles never mattered, no matter how justified they seemed. Only one thing did, ever had or ever will.
Which this silent night had taught me. Time was not really mine to be lorded over others with smooth speech, canny verbosity, veiled power and whatever mechanism I might employ under the name of righteousness and evangelization. No, this time wasn’t mine nor was it’s gift to me to be used as I saw fit or perhaps, only when I saw fit. It wasn’t mine at all nor had it ever been.
It was this silent night’s. From whose stillness whispered the Voice of timelessness, echoing above every limit and discord, every defeat and destruction, every fear and sorrow.
From the within the clatter and turbulence surrounding it, speaking out softly but firmly. About humility, its price and its victory.
|READER'S REVIEWS (1)
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"Is this about the purity of time? Interesting imagery the waves and the rain. A little awkward in places, "glance peered?" glance swept or wandered but not peered. That's like triping on something in the dark..oops. Liked the first scene with the pool balls and the bells, very descriptive. And the characterization of self righteousness, that was transparent. Promising. " -- Shelley, Fullerton, California, USA.
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© 2002 Jeffrey (George) Winter
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