The Man With The Bag On His Head

For years now since living in Methuen, I’ve journeyed back and forth onto Rt. 28 into NH to go shopping, or dining or moseying into Home Depot or Market Basket. There’s an old man who wanders; seemingly aimlessly up and down 28. For perhaps as often as once a week or more, for as long as I’ve been in this region, I’ve seen him -Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. My guess is he’s in his seventies.

                He’s about six feet tall with a bald crown and shoulder length white hair circling his cranial parameter- somewhat Peter Boyle-ish. He wears tattered clothing with a lightweight sports jacket and shoes. His hands are usually in his pockets as he strolls north or south along his famed route. The weather doesn’t matter. Bitter cold with sleet, snow and rain or scorching hot oppressing humidity he’s out there walking with a confused purpose. “Look daddy, that man has a bag on his head.” Sophia once pointed out from the back seat with a blend of excitement and laughter. It had been raining; not heavily, but steady. I looked to see and sure enough there he was. He had a clear plastic bag snuggly fit on his head as a makeshift rain hat to protect from the elements. Admittedly, I chuckled myself as this was not the first time I had seen him with a bag on his head. But as Sophia’s glee became increasingly shriller, I recognized the opportunity for a “life’s lesson.” Respect for people.

                There are bound to be dozens of opportunities in the years to come to emphasize to our children the meaning of having respect for others. I don’t know this man’s story.  His life is of no less value than my own. There is something about him that teaches me this with each drive-by passing. Is he a war veteran? Maybe he’s survived a horrible accident. He is unfortunately not at all in control of his faculties. It’s quite evident. For all I know he’s strolling to pay a visit to his own mom or dad. Whatever the case, he’s had my attention more and more each time I see him. I don’t feel bad for him. I rather admire him. There have been times when I’ve been tempted to offer him a ride, but I don’t know how he’d respond. And so on he walks unshaken by the often dangerous flow of traffic.

                We each have our own stories, our own bouts of turmoil, our own hidden pockets of despair and our own instabilities which one day may be the target of ridicule by those less weakened as a result of having never been taught respect. Teach your children early on. It is a fine example of responsible parenting. And if they don’t catch on over time, remind them that they like you and I, like it or not, may at some point be The Man with the Bag on his Head.

One Response to “The Man With The Bag On His Head”

  1. Nicely written Paul….it’s all too often that we forget life is unpredictable and can throw any one of us a curve. We should never judge, for we may someday be the subject of someone else’s opportunity…..

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