An important life lesson

Dear Editor,

One day while riding the bus from South Beach to downtown, this somewhat disheveled-looking gentleman wearing a jacket and tie sat next to me and we got to talking. Well, he did most of the talking. He started off by telling me in a rather hushed tone of voice that just a few short years ago, he was a man of power with great influence and how he is now struggling and hurting badly after losing that position.

That’s when I recognized him and was surprised that he was talking to me. Because even though we grew up in the same community, he hadn’t spoken to me in years. I didn’t know what to say so I just sat and listened as he told me about how, when he was a man of power, people from all around were reaching out to him for one thing or another and his phone never stopped ringing. There were dinners and parties galore. Not to mention the bevy of beautiful women that surrounded him. He was living in the fast lane, riding high on the hog. He paused and I heard a long sigh as he continued with his story.

He went on to say that now that he has lost that position, his phone hardly rings and when it does it is either a bill collector or his last daughter – the only one of his children who checks up on him ever since he walked out on them. People were ducking and avoiding him like a plague. That is when he called my name, something I thought he had forgotten. Continuing to keep his voice down he said, “Pal, I want to say sorry for the way I dissed you and so many of our childhood buddies. I didn’t know it would be like this. I was so caught up in the moment. I had so much money and power. I forgot my real friends and surrounded myself with people who only knew my title, my position of authority and what they could get from me.”

He let out another sigh and said what wounded him most was when the lady he supported financially for years, who he thought was madly in love with him, told him not to call her anymore. She was through with him. He continued by saying it’s a hurtful but valuable lesson – one he didn’t mind sharing. As a matter of fact, he encouraged me to write about it, providing I kept him incognito.

His advice to anyone in a position of power or authority is that you need to be careful and not make the mistakes he made thinking people who call, call for you and not the position. Because if you lose that position, the calls stop coming. The parties and dinner invitations cease. They never cared about him, only what he could give. The moment he could not give they stopped caring and looked elsewhere.

By this time, I was feeling his pain and prayed silently. Lord please remind me to always be humble, never forgetting my roots. As we approached his stop, he softly said, “Buddy, if ever you learned anything on this bus ride, the one thing you should take with you is this: the more you go up, the more you should humble yourself. The more success or money you get, the more simple your life should become. The more you should spend time with the people who will be by your side no matter what. Because if anything should go wrong, your business partners, social acquaintances and your groupies will jump ship and abandon you but your real friends and family will be there for you.”

Before getting off the bus, he hugged me tightly and whispered in my ear, “Can you loan me five bucks until I see you again?”

Pocketing the bill, he stepped onto the pavement, paused for a moment to regain his composure, then took a cigar out of his jacket pocket, lit up and sauntered off into the hub.

This took place a few months ago and even though I looked everywhere, I have not seen him again. But I’ve never stopped thanking him for what I learned that day on the bus. That’s why I enjoy bus rides so much. They’re very enlightening. You meet a lot of people and learn something new on every ride. For instance, while riding on another bus, I overheard someone say, “If you were to win the lottery, before letting anyone know you won, call up as many of your friends as you can and ask them for a $50 loan. Then you will know with whom to share your good fortune.”

That’s life.

– TP

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