An old friend has soft eyes.
There is welcome there, and good neighborliness. A twinkle of mischievousness can be spotted as well. But no trace of malice can be seen, although, with kids and grandkids, my guess is he has had his patience tested, at least once or twice. Still, he has changed from when we walked to school together- his girth is grandfatherly and joyfully wide, his red hair now white, and a beard adds to an effect of rotund kindliness where in years past, a freshly shaven face and neatly combed hair gave him a “nice boy” look, an effect no doubt reflecting inner values of decency he´d been given and held onto.
I´m sure he has known his share of pain and, given his background and the times, heard, and maybe even entertained, the racism of the region we lived in. But strangely enough, over the years, I never heard a mean-spirited or prejudiced comment from him and while he might have kept such close to his chest (if they existed in his heart), I like to think the eyes gave away a less sharp and more delicate secret – that he simply was a good man.
I despair much these days. Cycles of violence consume my news gathering jaunts, a deep-seated need to comment on such leaves me exhausted and frequently dispirited, and the cumulative toll on my own spirit, one which longs for a world which at least makes the efforts to see through the other´s eyes, to walk in the others´shoes, and to feel what the other´s heart feels, has me at times cynical. I am brought back to one of my favorite bands, the Buzzcocks, who used at the end of one noteworthy listing of shifting beliefs in the song “I Believe”, a chorus which might seem artifice if it weren´t delivered with so much pathos about 20 times in a row to a fading climax:
“There is no love in this world anymore!”
I am too influenced by such sentiments to be much of a “romantic” and yet I remain, as one friend called me, a “moralist”, certainly not in some pre-packaged, scolding way, but a person who appeals, again and again, to himself and to any who will listen, that our world needs a different approach if we are to survive. An approach rooted in the delicate structures of morals and ethics in our treatment of one another. Rooted so deeply in fact, that it stands stable and strong, a powerful example to all that this is the way we must be if any of us are to live.
My friend with the soft-eyes may or may not share those views; I knew and grew up with him and his family and they were always, in my mind at least, kindred spirits: like us, working-class, a little less in the shiny department as some of the other flashier (and wealthier) neighbors we shared, and maybe a little bit of an “outsider” status, though he of Scots-Irish background and I Puertorican. He was a “good ol´boy”, not in some negative way but in the straighter-laced, far less hippier comportment I reveled in. And I don´t know what he thought about when Life was hard, nor was I privy to his pain during the years I lived on the same block. But on the occasions we fished together or walked to school or when, years later, when I stayed for a time in the old house with my mother and sickly father, he came readily when called to help carry my father to his bed or out of a tub, I saw something worth celebrating in my jaundiced heart: kindness. He still has those eyes, and I hope he continues to bring to others the same inspiration he gifted me. Would that our world had more good men with soft eyes…