“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” —Nelson Mandela


Everyday in this last year I walk by a neighbor. He is a small portly man, possibly in his mid to late fifties. I guess he could be sixty but by no means in this day and age is he old. He wears the same clothes everyday, a plain white tee-shirt both clean and what looks to be pressed and a pair of black athletic shorts. Occasionally I see him smoking a cigarette, usually after dinner. He always smokes away from the building and is very courteous  of others and his smoke trail. Once a week he fries chicken in his apartment and the hallway smells delightful, a lot like home. I’ve only seen the wife once, she must keep different hours than the man and I. He always says hello and has a kindness in his eyes that can only be learned. He is not the typical neighbor in this building. On my drive to work this morning I found myself thinking of this guy and possible life stories that could have put him here. Was he a powerful businessman that lost everything in the market crash? Did he own his own business and sell it, now living well below his means? If he’s as nice as he seems, why is he here? Does he have a family? I’ll never know the answers to these questions because I don’t want to know. What I want to remember of this neighbor is that he seemed kind. That’s good enough for me.


However, the one remaining question that rattles around in my mostly hollow head is: What happened to his passion for life? When I look at his face, I see emptiness. It’s possible that I am being too judgmental and am prying to deep but I care about other humans. It might be what sets me apart from a lot of “dudes.” Look at people’s faces, it tells you all you need to know about them. At one point in this man’s life he said, “enough…” and moved into one of these shitty apartments and put on a new uniform. So I wonder and pontificate and try to use big words. I think to myself ,”this was your possible future…” I could easily be this man had a spark not entered my life awaking my soul.


Wait a minute… Maybe this is an upgrade from a Hell I have no idea about? My questions might be backwards. The question might be how did he get so far and overcome so much?