Monday, September 19, 2016

Soulful encounters while waiting for gyros

Saturday morning I had one of those moments so sweetly humane you later sit back and think, man, I just hope God was watching.

Even if He was not, a lot of people at the Ligonier Farmer’s Market were. I’d gone there jonesin’ for gyro.

So were about six other people. The long, slow-moving line had me feeling crabby and I began making petty judgements about those who were snaking ahead of me.

The old guy dawdled trying to retrieve the exact change. Surfer dude couldn’t make up his mind on his desired toppings. Worst of all, was the woman right in front of me.

About 60, I guess, she kept a big, four-foot gap between her and the guy in front of her meaning I was practically in the lap of the soap-selling hippy at the stand across the midway.

What kind of monster doesn’t comprehend basic line behavior?

Then just as I was about to begin a nasty Simon Cowell-esque critique of her hair — boom! — down she went, like she’d been drilled by a sniper.

 What did I do?

I in an instant became Florence Nightingale. I dropped to my knees, took her hand in one of mine and began stroking her hair with other to offer maximum comfort.

“Are you all right?”

Note: I didn’t even momentarily pause to consider whether I might have been providing perhaps live-saving care to a potential Trump voter.

I just saw a fellow human being in need and instantly began to render aid.

Her knee had buckled. The only real damage was done to her dignity.

“I’m not drunk,” she said. “I’m not high. Right now, I’m just embarrassed.”

"It's okay. No need to be embarrassed."

She lay there for about two minutes with me holding her hand and assuring her she it was all right.

Then — One! Two! Three! — I got her to her feet. She was still unsteady so we wrapped our arms around one another for another minute, long enough that I knew if someone from our church spied me there’d be a scandal.

And that was it. She got her gyro, thanked me once again and away she went.

I got my gyro and did the same.

As I walked away, I was surprised by claps on the back and smiles from people telling me I was a great guy.

Admit it: You’re jealous.

Who among us doesn’t crave more opportunities to do good? To help. To prove even if it’s just to ourselves that when the situation calls for it, we are decent human beings.

Oddly, it was the second consecutive time in one month when purchasing a gyro led to soulful encounters.

The other was last month when Josie and I were in Pittsburgh’s Strip District to chow and I, as I always, do required tasty gyro from the guy with Pittsburgh’s best mustache, the man who coincidentally makes the city’s best gyro.

The guy shaves lamb meat at a stand outside Labad’s, a Middle Eastern grocer at 1727 Penn Avenue.

He shaves a lot of meat so there’s plenty of time for cheerful conversation. He’s a very kind and friendly man.

I tell him my mustache wants to become his when it grows up.

He laughs.

We talk about what a beautiful day it is and in his thick accent, he says “in America, it’s always a beautiful day.”

I asked my exotic-sounding friend about his nation of origin.

“I’m from Syria,” he said.

Oh, my. I was crestfallen and launched into a bleeding heart sermon about how I pray hostilities cease and homeland justice prevails.

“Oh,” he said, “it’s no big deal.”


“It’s almost over. Everything will be fine. You’ll see.”

I couldn’t believe it. I express more soulful concern when I learn there’s a cafeteria bully loose in the lunch line at my kid’s elementary school.

Did he still have family there?

“Sure, they’re fine.”

Was he really talking about Syria? 

He was. 

“It’s very pretty there. Do you know they get a lot of snow? Syria will be fine.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. 

On the one hand it’s encouraging to hear someone — anyone — say things in Syria will soon be swell.

On the other, I now in hindsight realize not every opportunity for us to uplift is going to involve someone who’s fallen down.

And I guess all I really know is this:

I’m suddenly craving gyro for lunch.

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