The Enounter Between the Simple Soul and the Person of Good Standing

Joan Marques - Ed.D., MBA.
Burbank, California

A simple soul was sitting on a bench near a riverbank, enjoying the scenery while savoring the fresh air that was carried by a nice, cool afternoon breeze. He was wearing plain clothes, and sandals that had clearly seen their best times. Beside him laid an ragged bag, in which all his material riches were stored. And yet, he was visibly content while he pulled a small package out of his bag and unwrapped it: it was a sandwich. Just as the simple soul was about to take his first bite, he became aware of a quiet figure sitting at the other end of the bench. He saw, what society considered, "a person of good standing," dressed in gray business attire, black leather shoes, and with an expensive looking leather suitcase that was nonchalantly placed within arm reach.

And yet, there was something tragic about this person of good standing, as she was staring at one point in the distance without really seeing anything. There was an expression of confusion on her face and it seemed as if she was not even aware of her location.

The simple soul knew the signs, but his life experience withheld him from making a remark. Just when he focused his attention back to his sandwich, the person of good standing turned to him and started to speak: "What is it that you see? Why do you come here and what is your secret? I have been observing you during the past months from my office on the 10th floor of the building across the street, and while I was busy arranging business transactions, I could see you sitting here every afternoon; eating whatever the day brought you, and enjoying the view. Your simplicity got me thinking, and ultimately drove me to take a closer look at my circumstances. It made me realize that the pressure of my job was not what I wanted to deal with for the rest of my life. So I gave my notice, and everybody was astounded. But now that it's all over, I'm not so sure about my next step. Today was officially my last day, and although they told me that I can still change my mind, I know that is not what I want. Yet, I don't know what else to do either. I am at a loss. So again, tell me: what is it that attracts you to this place everyday? What do you see, and what is your secret?"

The simple soul had been listening with a smile and something else in his expression that the person of standing could not quite place yet. Then he spoke:

"I come here because this place reminds me of freedom. I see the waves, the birds, the clouds. I enjoy the fresh air, and the weather of the day. I realize how blessed my eyes are to see this. How blessed my mind is to enjoy this. How blessed my nose is to smell this. How blessed all my other senses are to experience this in their own way. I relish the view and what it means to me: being. And being, to me, only makes sense if it means: being content. I don't need much. I get something to eat everyday from the people in this neighborhood that know me: janitors, CEO's, line-managers, bus drivers, students, vendors, and senior citizens, to name a few. These people often talk to me. They ask me questions about life, and they seem to value my answers. I have no secret other than living in the here and now, and allowing all my senses to appreciate that here and now as well as they can."

The person of good standing then asked: "Now that I told you where I am at; what can you tell ME?"

The simple soul thought for a brief moment, then replied, "Only this: be quiet. Be calm. Listen to your senses. Give yourself some time, and you will find your area of contentment. Your previous occupation was obviously not bringing you the happiness and fulfillment you wanted, and fortunately - unlike many others you recognized that and dared to make a move. Don't panic now. Times will not always seem bright. Your goal may take longer to surface than you anticipate. But if you listen to yourself, you will know in due time."

The simple soul kept quiet, and suddenly, without further asking, the person of good standing knew that the expression she had earlier seen on the face of the simple soul had been one of recognition. He must have been there and done that. The person of good standing now also realized that the uncomplicated lifestyle of enjoying the simple things and not chasing the complex ones was the absolute freedom a person could attain.

The person of good standing was not sure whether she would ever be able to live as carefree and uncomplicated a life as he was living, but she knew that this brief encounter with the simple soul would help her focus and find her direction.

She thanked the simple soul, got up, and left. The simple soul uttered a quiet sigh, finally took the first bite of his sandwich, and continued enjoying the view.