Posted January 9, 2012
At the Traffic Light
As I waited, aggravated and impatient,
in a long line of holiday traffic
for a very slow traffic light to change,
a man dressed in Desert Camouflage BDUs
slowly limped, cold and tired,
down the long row of idling cars.
Hanging around his neck was a sign
“Veteran, will work for wages to feed my family,”
and in his hand a coffee can
hoping for a possible donation.
No longer concerned about my plight
of being stuck in traffic,
I watched as he passed by many luxury cars
filled with families
happily anticipating and preparing
for their sumptuous holiday celebration.
No one took notice,
no one even cared,
including the driver of the SUV
directly in front of me
on which was displayed a “Proud to be an American”
and a “Freedom isn’t Free” bumper sticker.
I was outraged.
As he approached my car,
I lowered my window
and clumsily shoved bills into his can.
As our eyes met,
I saw the tears in his eyes and he in mine.
By then the light had changed
and those behind me started leaning on their horns.
I felt an overwhelming need
to apologize for so many things,
for not doing more to help him,
for not being able to stop
these damned wars and occupations,
and for the obnoxious people in the other cars
who could spout shallow talk of patriotism,
concern for the troops,
and love and peace
during this holiday season,
but could callously ignore the needs
of a fellow human being,
Not a word was exchanged, however.
I realized that words were unnecessary
for we shared a bond that went far deeper
than words can ever express.
As the cars began making their way around me,
the vet smiled weakly,
nodded in appreciation and acknowledgement
and walked slowly to the safety of the sidewalk.
As I drove away, angry and upset,
I doubt that I have ever felt
less proud to be an American.