For years as I drive to work through the village and onto the Magnolia Bridge, I pass an older man walking the sidewalk on the same route. Depending on my timing I see him at various locations but most commonly on or near the bridge. I see him on weekday mornings only; never once have I caught a glimpse of him anywhere else in Magnolia nor have I seen him walking any other route. He looks to be in his seventies with a balding head, sharp nose and a slight stoop to his shoulders. His face is kindly and he is always nicely dressed in a suit coat and tie. He is out there regardless of the season or the weather, sometimes wearing an overcoat or carrying an umbrella. No one ever seems to stop to offer him a ride. He walks with confidence, not particularly fast but with an ease that probably keeps many from slowing to offer him a lift.
I've often wondered about this man. Is he walking to work? Does he own a business? How does he get home? Does he ride the bus uphill back to Magnolia at the end of his day? I've never heard anyone talk about him and perhaps he is only a fleeting visual to others as they drive by him day in and day out. Something about him always catches my attention but I am not entirely certain why. Lately if one of my family is in the car with me at the time I point him out and say, "Look, there's the angel."
This man carries some sort of stick with a pointed end and a plastic bag. I see him picking up trash: cigarette butts, bits of paper, aluminum cans crushed flat by passing vehicles, whatever happens to be out there on the sidewalk or along curb. If he is not actively poking that stick into trash and storing it in the bag he is walking with intention, scouring the path ahead for more of the same. This man is making our world a more beautiful place with quiet determination, one bit of trash at a time. For his tireless energy and gifts, I am grateful.
Sometimes I imagine that he is a mirage, that he isn't really there or that perhaps I am the only one who can see him. I suppose this comes from the disparity between the regularity with which I spot him and how little I know about him. His mystery generates in me a creative wonder. I prefer to think of him as an angel doing his work with quiet poise and passion while the rest of the world whizzes along oblivious and self absorbed. I also imagine that were I to snap his picture with my digital camera, the display screen would show a sidewalk, trees and sky but no sign of his person because, well; angels can't be photographed. Their good deeds are all that we see.