As the years melt away through the beautiful chaos of the seasons, I see a man standing amongst the second roundabout in Manchester. He’s about forty years my senior. He’s neither homeless nor a traveler. He’s just an old man with a trim-shaven beard, and short gray hair, just standing there day-after-day holding a new sign with a new, witty phrase, waving, smiling, trying to change the world.
This is Vermont. This is his ‘retirement plan.‘ He yearns to make a difference through words. He seeks only change, not fame. I don’t even know his name despite the countless times we’ve driven or walked by him, smiled and waved. He’s always there in that same spot by the Northshire Library. This is his job.
As I left Manchester, headed to Prospect Rock for a mid-day hike, his image branded my mind. I tramped up the wide, gravelly road blanketed in a crunchy layer of snow. Rain dropped from overhead dripping off the branches of bare trees, melting and plunging to the ground below. The sun shot through the coniferous clusters of pine drooping with pillows of icicles. Nature’s mantra echoed down through the valley as my mind wandered in thought.
I ruminated of change. I thought of life and existence, another year of adventures, travel and mindless work. I thought of those who have fizzled out of my life for whatever reason and the self improvements I’ve made to become a better person over the last year. Where rage and melancholy once filled my black heart is now a stream of peaceful easy livin’ and hope. I have no aspirations to change the world. I will continue to live in-between, but I can’t help but wonder how many lives this man has changed through simple phrases of hope and uplifting words. One day I will shake his hand, stand beside him and listen to his story.