Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Fear Not The Odd Outcast in The New Year

              This story may challenge you with a resolution for you to entertain for the new year.         


            For years now, we've had this guy in our neighborhood.


            My daughter, who's gone and married now, first noticed him when she was in the ninth grade. And as kids are wont to do, she gave him a name.


            The Shibby Shabba Man.


            Shibby Shabba talks to no one and never drives a car or rides a bus.


            He walks everywhere. Past our house.  Going to the store.  Going to work.


            Oh yes, going to work.  He has a tool belt that implies carpenter.


            But when he walks, he does so oddly.


            Sometimes he walks backwards.  When he does so he does it perfectly and smoothly like it was  the most natural thing in the world.


            Sometimes he kind of bounces and jives, a white guy doin' the boogie down the sidewalk.


            Other times he seems lost in an animated conversation—with himself.


            He is clean cut, trim,  about  five  foot ten, around 45 years old with graying and thinning sandy blond hair.


            In a suit, he could usher at our church.


            But… he's  Mr. Shibby Shabba.  Something is a bit off with him but he's been a harmless part of our landscape for years.


            A few weeks ago, I broke the rules.  The rules that say the odd and different should be allowed to stay in their own world without our interference.


            It was about 8 a.m. and Shibby was  off to work, a strange extra long stride punctuating each step.  It was pouring rain, a real soaker.


            Driving to work, I slowed to match his pace, rolling down the window.


            I offered him a ride so he could escape the  monsoon engulfing him.


            Immediately I knew I had made a mistake.  His eyes espressed fear, almost panic as he stuttered that he was fine.


            Very heavy rain.  One more try.  "Are you sure?", I asked.  He was sure.  He wanted to be left alone, I could tell.  This human contact was scaring him.


            So I drove on and  Shibby Shabba retreated into his own  universe once again.


            Lately he's developed a really cool shtick.  Carrying drumsticks down the avenue,  he beats out riffs on the occasional oak tree or garbage can.  Pied Piper and  Ringo  Starr all rolled into one.


            Everybody talks about him and laughs.  Life goes on.


            These days when I see him I wonder about that time I tried to pierce the veil that covers his world.


            Is there a Shibby Shabba in your neighborhood?  At work?  At the bus stop?


            Look around and maybe even try to make some kind of connection. 


            Sure, it might turn out like my encounter but  at least  you'll feel better for trying.


            Here's to the Shibby Shabba's everywhere.  They are testing our compassion and our nerve.  They don't all have to be like a utility pole we pass and never notice.


            You never know. 


            I might even try it again.  There is something special about the Shibby Shabba shuffle. Maybe I'll learn something.   And I'm not talking about dancing.




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