On a particularly dark and blustery day in January, I hiked across campus, a briefcase in hand, though I wanted desperately to put my hand in my deep coat pocket. I came upon the only other human being I could see, looking out from the narrowest of openings in the hood of my storm coat. In fact, I recognized the man and I offered a “good morning,” though he could not possibly have known who I was. The day was too cold for me to stop and identify myself and his hurried passage let me know that he felt the same.
Once inside the building, I shed my high-tech barriers to the cold and stepped into the rest room to shake off the cold and un-bunch my sweater (something that cold weather people do as a matter of course). While I was there, the professor hosting my appearance in class came in, too, and remarked about my heavy Filson sweater.. “Wow,” he exclaimed, “nice look! You always have such great sweaters.”
After the class, I mentioned to my host that I was headed for the athletic center to run indoors, since there was no way I was even thinking about an outdoor jog. He said that he was headed for the center, as well, and we braved the winter once more to the lower campus. As we changed into running clothes, a handball friend of mine stopped by to chat. We regularly berate and tease one another to maintain our healthy competitive relationship, and this day he said, with a mixture of derision and compliment, “Wow, you really are in shape! I wouldn’t have expected an old guy to still have such pins. Too bad they don’t help you on the court. But at least your legs look strong!”
I laughed him off. I ran the indoor oval by myself, glad for the run and the chance to burn off some nervous energy. I was scheduled for a small but uncomfortable surgical procedure that afternoon at the local clinic, and the exercise provided good preparation: I was tired enough that the discomfort was minimal and the process short. Better yet, the news that afternoon was good: the doctor came back into the exam room to say that the results were excellent. “The pictures we got from inside were even better than what we could tell outside,” he offered. “You look good.”
I felt some relief at my prognosis, so much so that I actually stopped by the church to offer a few thoughts of gratitude inside the quiet sanctuary. As I sat alone, however, the senior pastor happened to walk in and saw me sitting alone. He tentatively approached, not wishing to intrude but not daring to ignore. I assured him that my visit was one of thanks and not petitioning. He smiled at that, and replied, “I’m available in any case, if you like. I’d never presume to know what anyone’s thinking to bring them here late on a weekday.”
By the time I reached home, the events of the day had worked their way deep into my energy reserves. I flopped into a recliner chair and allowed the footrest to lift my feet. I lay there for several minutes, replaying the events and the people of the day. I hoped that my next opportunity to speak with a class might allow a focus on layers, from parkas to physiques, from anatomy to the content of my character….