A Gentle Spirit

     A stranger on the doorstep after dark with disreputable looks and Bohemian dirt might alarm a woman at home alone for the evening! However, it's only Gino -- whom we have perceived to be a "gentleman" in the highest sense.

  Our family first met Gino a few years ago when he asked for food. (In our small town my father is a contact-person for emergency aid.) There being no Agency to play Good Samaritan to his ancient wreck of a station wagon, Gino frequently puts the "touch" on dad for personal loans to cover Band-aid type car repairs. Unlike many of the others dad has loaned small bits of money to -- always with the promise that they'll pay him back (but they never seem to) -- Gino is faithful to eventually repay these small amounts.

  Gino is not tall for a man. But a stocky build conveys the impression of "big." Hmmm, has his full, bushy beard ever known the stroke of a razor?
Fiercely-black hair and outdoor-kissed complexion call to mind a friendly black bear -- albeit one garbed in blue jeans so rotten as to be nearly indecent.

     Gino isn't the average down and outer. Intelligent and thoughtful, he's a little bit of a philosopher!

  Regular loan expeditions give him a chance to express his views to dad, to be sociable. On this night, remarkably, he doesn't "need any-thing" meaning money. He is simply weary of tying hard knots in the ends of his emotional rope!

   "I'm feelin' kinda low. I thought maybe I might talk to ol' Carl." (The ol---- " is affectionate.)

  Ol' Carl" isn't home. But Gino invites himself in.

  "I can't figure why some folks have things so easy," he confides. "Life is so hard for Katria and me!"

   In our economically depressed region, Gino has only been able to secure odd jobs. When he does work, he comes home too tired to think -- as great a loss to him as missing a right hand. His wife is going to wait tables part time, graveyard shift, at an all-night cafe. It's an hour each way to drive her to work, Gino tells me mournfully. Between trips, he must mind the baby in its bed. He'll hardly get to see his wife! Yet the weekly $50 she expects after expenses may just mean survival!

  Because many people are unsympathetic to the poor, Gino needs to know I understand his fears, his anguish. How better to put his mind at rest than by sharing "my own area of poverty", along with my solutions for battling those pesky bouts with low spirits?

  A health problem prevents me from seeking regular employment. I love to write -- but my energy doesn't permit earning a living via the free lance market. My parents, with whom I live, are getting up in years. The future -- or lack of it? -- frightens me, I tell Gino.

  "But, shall I make myself ill worrying over something I can't control?" I ask him. "Or, do the best I know how each day, and trust God there will BE a future?"

  "But," he protests, "aren't you scared?"

   "Sometimes -- you bet. But because of my circumstances, I've had to give the decision out of my hands -- for the sake of sanity!"

   "And I thought I was the only one with problems! Do you s'pose I could let the good Lord fix up tomorrow, if I do what I can about today?"

   I assure him this is the strength of my faith. He asks, then, if he might peek at some of my work -- my writings. As I start down the hallway after them, he hollers after me.

   "Maybe something you've written would hit the spotfor a guy who feels he can't make it---- "

   I have what Gino seems to be wanting! Upon reading the picturesque first paragraph about otters playing in a woodland pool, he bursts forth: "I love this already!"

    "Well, Gino," I tell him, "the truth is, I've never seen that pond, or otter! Since I wasn't free to go to the woods, I made my chores more pleasant by use of a creative imagination---- "

  "You wrote this, never having been there?" His handsome black eyes pop. "Oh, I'm going to love it!"

  A couple of weeks later he returns my stack of essays, appreciative of my sharing how to weather the storms of life by watching rain make jewels on locust leaves. My philosophy of trying to learn from failures seems a valuable discovery to one in his straits.

   (But as I said before, Gino isn't the typical down and outer. He's got a mind, and aches to be set free to use it!)

   "Each article turned out to be exactly what I needed at the moment I read it," he exclaims. "But you can't know my moods in advance! I don't see how you do that---"

   I explain how 'defeat' is a frequent fear-cry of my heart, as it is in Gino's. Still, I'm always on the lookout for positive ways to understand myself, to grow, even when I can't change situations.

   "Say! I'm going to stop hating my jobs. I'll be glad I've some work -- and 'think creatively.' Gosh-dammit, your stuff is too good to hide away; it really blesses a guy who's feelin' low. God, but I hope you find a way to get your writings published!"

   (Well, dear God who is my Friend -- Amen to that! I hope I do find outlets.)

   As Gino flashes his beatific smile, I see such sweetness in the man as to make me forget his apparent badge of independence from "the establishment":
the grimy disrespectful jeans, the unkempt beard. His high praises have fallen softly on my ears.

    Gino insists he can't remember a conversation in years that touched his life as deeply as on that night he lingered to dialog with me. But, to pick up on his earthy speech -- gosh-darnit, I was "helped" by Gino, too!

  How I have craved to "feel needed"! How good it is to discover a kindred spirit, even in a fellow whose lifestyle (by choice and necessity) is unlike mine.

   Sometimes I fear I will never make good as a writer. Happiness is: knowing that Gino, in his own fashion, "prays" for me to succeed -- though he isn't a man who knows much about churches, or the Bible.

   One time I commented: "We are here whenever you need someone to talk to." And Gino answered briskly: "Oh, I ain't done with you folks yet. Don't ever think it!"

   May it ever be so, that he comes around from time to time to make us "rich" -- though it be in the guise of needing assistance himself! Is this how the blessings come down, this simple "gifting" to one another?

   I give to Gino what I possess -- hope, and a "listening ear." But truly, I think I am the one most "touched" by his visits. How worthwhile to look beneath the facade of a big ol' shambling bear of a hippie-sort -- to find, of all things, a homespun philosopher and a true "gentleman" to learn from! The "bigness" of Gino's gentle spirit reminds me of the even greater wideness of my Loving Caring Lord, who is my greatest "inner security."

copyright (c) 1986-2004 by Marilee Miller
copying is limited to personal enjoyment