As the story goes, when two dominant jungle cats – a tiger and a lion – met in the wilderness, the lion slowly retreated. Was it afraid? No. Each had the potential to kill the other; but, each valued life more.
My mother use to say my uncle Lyle, “… had a temper if he wanted to use it.” Her deference for acting out in anger might have come from her dad who enjoyed a good donnybrook. I’m sure he seldom utilized human relations skills. No, to grandpa, it was his way or the highway – period! People learned not to provoke him or “poke the eye of the tiger.”
Now, decades later, I’m face-to-face with a tiger’s rage.
At first, I didn’t know what was causing the commotion. Along with adults, and a disembarked school bus of secondary students, we were standing on the sidewalk waiting for the theatre doors to open. Unhappy with this, a man armed with a walker, was ramming his way through the crowd – people scrambling to get out of his way.
Some stuff fell off his walker when he ran over a friend’s foot.
Instinctively, I bent to help pick up his things when – with a serene expression – he asks me for some spare change. I was incredulous. Considering his rude behavior, I said, “You picked the wrong time.”
“It’s the eye of the tiger / it’s the thrill of the fight / risin’ up to the challenge of our rival”
~ The Eye of the Tiger by Survivor
His outrage was explosive! Publicly chastised, his eyes glared with resentment. And, there I stood – guilty of poking the eye of the tiger with a (judgement) stick.
So now, standing up straight, to the full extent of his six-foot frame, he rained down on me a tirade of expletives… hissing out the words, “Then, when is the right time?” I stood transfixed: my mind playing a ‘Lightfoot’ soundtrack… about waves turning minutes to hours.
Locked within each other’s gaze, I searched his eyes to discern what he was truly feeling. What I saw haunts me still: a belittled man fighting for survival… with precious little to call his own, except his dignity, which I’d just demeaned.
“He’s not selling any alibis / As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes”
~ Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan
Still, my pride wouldn’t let it go. What was the right time? It was what he, me and everyone knew:
Years ago, I interviewed Order of Canada recipient Anna Kaljas. For years, hundreds of homeless people have stayed in her Kitchener homes – that include homemade meals. She asked, “Why do people put them down? – they’ve been put down all their lives.” Saying, they’ve places for stray cats and dogs; yet, no room for those unlucky enough to find themselves out on the street… looking for shelters and food banks.
And, even though we may not have homes to offer; may we still have room in our hearts for caring.
Photo is pixabay creative commons
First published at fredparry.ca
Guest Author Bio
Fred Parry lives in Southern Ontario. He is a lover of people and a collector of stories, music, wisdom, and grandchildren. His newspaper column, Music in Me, can be found in ‘The New Hamburg Independent’ Metroland Media. His book, ‘The Music In Me’ (2013) Friesen Press is Available from Amazon and Indigo / Chapters.
Blog / Website: www.fredparry.ca