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I remember that morning like it was yesterday. I had traveled to a west coast city for a business meeting.
I awoke earlier than usual and for some strange reason I felt the need to take a walk. My hotel was located in a fairly safe area of town and gave in to the urge.
Quickly, slipping into my casual clothes, I grabbed a banana on the way out of the lobby and began strolling along the already busy downtown street. The sounds of far away car horns echoed through the canyon of buildings. The sun was just peeking over the horizon and as I walked the sky began transforming from the deep blue/black of night to a soft light blue. I could smell the fresh baked bread of the city bakery.
I rounded the back corner of the block and almost stepped on a old man sitting on the sidewalk. His back was leaning against a grey stone wall of the building.
“Oh, excuse me”, I said, as I stepped over his outstretched legs.
“No problem,” he returned.
As I stepped away I overheard him mumble in a low voice, “In a hurry, good man?”
I stopped and turned. “No, not really, how are you this fine morning?”
“I’m fantastic!” He responded.
It didn’t take me long to survey his situation. In my business travels over the years I had seen it all too often. Down and out from a job loss he must have started drinking. He lost the respect of his wife and children and those events slowly turned into a downward spiral and now his life was riddled with heart ache and despair.
I thought I was about to hear that all-too-common line; “bud, can you spare a dollar”?
The old man said, “Are you staying at the hotel? You’re not from around these parts, are you? I mean, I can tell ‘cause there ain’t no houses down here and you don’t seem to be dressed for a particularly long walk.”
“No I’m not from here”, I said quickly, “I’m here on a business trip and I awoke this morning with the urge to take a walk, so here I am.”
Reaching into my pocket I involuntarily blurted, “Can I help you out?”
The old man first looked at my gesture, and then straight into my eyes, “No thanks, I’ve got everything I need.”
Yea right, I said to myself. How can he have everything he needs when it’s fairly obvious he has nothing!
“How is that so?” I blurted, “You’re sitting here on a busy street at dawn. As you said there are no houses down here. Where did you sleep last night? Please let me help you.”
“I have a place to sleep”, he said. Then he slowly rose, looked me in the eyes and held out his hand. It was large, soft and warm. His eyes seem to see straight into my soul. Somehow I felt that I knew this man. He shook my hand, bid me goodbye and turned and walked away.
As he turned the corner I felt something in the palm of my hand. He had slipped a note into my hand during our farewell.
I opened the note. In the early morning light I could barely read it:
What drummer’s beat has you hypnotized? I must say that when I am tested I look skyward and wonder if angels experience growth? Do they understand the instructions taught in life or do they rely on divine forces yet undiscovered here on earth? What forges the unknown? Standing before me the path curves and turns uphill…shall I turn away to another trail or stimulate the challenge with hope and faith knowing that my dream is a life yet lived and a story up till now untold and soon to be witnessed by those very angels. What do I do to water my deepest roots? It’s love that taps the eternal wellspring that wets my thirst. Love shared with faith and hope. Yes, the drummer I find each day are the angels that watch over me and I am filled with joy and am thankful for each and every step I take.
I pocketed the note and made my way back to the hotel.
Upon returning to my room I could hear the buzzing sound of my alarm clock. I opened the door and reaching into my pocket I placed the old man’s note on the room table.
I reset the alarm clock and noticed that the room phone message light was blinking. I picked up the phone only to hear a desk clerk recording that I had a package at the check-in center.
A package, I thought? My trip had been last minute and no one, other than my family, knew my location.
I grabbed an elevator and went straightway to the desk. “You have a package for room 110?” I asked.
“Yes sir,” the clerk answered. The clerk slipped a long narrow box across the counter. “A very nice older gentleman came in this morning and left this for you. He mentioned that you’d recognize the gift and would know who sent it. He didn’t leave his name and didn’t sign the package”, the clerk said. “I’m sorry, is there anything else I can help you with?”
“Thank you, no.” I said and tucked the package under my arm and returned to my room wondering how the old man knew who I was and where I was staying, for I hadn’t mentioned neither.
I sat the package on the table and surprisingly noticed that the old man’s note was missing. I looked under the table, in the bathroom, under the bed and everywhere in the room. Gone. Disappeared. Felling more puzzled I opened the box to find a set of drumsticks.
Today, I carry those sticks on every business trip and often wonder what happened to the note. Was my encounter with the old man a dream? How do we explain the events in our lives? What force drives the good and the challenging? What keeps us moving forward? What sustains us in our time of need?
What drummer’s beat has you hypnotized?