Thursday, October 25, 2007

Delightful Barry

There is nothing in this world that makes me more uncomfortable than pulling up beside a homeless man standing at an intersection with a cardboard sign. Not because I'm nervous about what he'll do, but because I simply feel awkward and...helpless. Helpless because as much as I want to help this man, I know that my handful of odd change truly won't make a difference in his life.

So I tend to get flustered. Do I busy myself with my cell phone in an attempt to ignore him and therefore feel like a bitch? Or do I stare out at him from the comfort of my car like he's an intriguing museum exhibit? Neither option feels right.

This constant dilemma causes 90 seconds of red light to feel like eternity.

But as trite as it may be, to every rule there is an exception, and my exception is Barry.

Barry is an older black man who roams a three-block area near my office building. With a single glance, it's apparent that he's suffering from some kind of mental illness. All day long, he lopes up and down the sidewalk and grins like he hasn't a care in the world. But he doesn't just stop there.

I haven't figured out how he does it, but every few days, Barry has a new prop. One day he'll be dancing on the corner wearing a motocross helmet, the next he'll be happily sqweeging people's windshields while they're stopped at red lights. I've seen him wear a cut-open rubber chicken, an old-fashioned bowler hat and rubber gloves with a surgeon's cap. (I'm still waiting to see a lampshade...)

Because I pass his intersection several times in a day, Barry now recognizes me. Most of the time, if I'm stopped at the light, he'll tap on my window and wave enthusiastically to me. His genuine, smiling face can truly make my day.

Barry delights me. Despite his hard circumstances, his upbeat attitude never seems to waiver. To Barry, the world is a party and he obviously sees himself as the life of it.

Barry makes me feel both blessed...and ungrateful for my blessings. No matter what petty worry is on my mind—credit card bills, work stuff, relationship problems—it takes a single smile from Barry to snap me back to reality. Strange to say, but I honestly wish I was more like him.

Minus the rubber chicken hat.


Anonymous Jay said...

Please lock your doors and leave yourself enough room between you and the car in front of you to drive off in a hurry if Barry's particular imbalance should one day go bad.

6:44 PM  
Blogger Jenn and Chris Looney said...

I think Jay missed the point...

I love this one and wish we had a Barry on Music Row - but at least we have the man on the bike who sings enthusiastically as he rides down the alley - and there's always the ice cream truck... :)

8:45 AM  

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