|I sat down on a park bench off 31st street, to relax before my next class.
"Hello, my name is Dan, can I sit with you?" I looked up at a rather large, dirty, old man. "Sure can, my name is Ben, Ben Wheely." I said to this strange man. He took his spot to my left on the park bench. He had a gray business suit on, a matching gray tie to boot. "How's it going?" I asked sincerely. "Not bad at all son. Not bad at all." He went on. "How about yourself." Being friendly I reply. "Just another day, sir." He looked puzzled.
"Why are you so glum there Ben?" I went on to tell him what was bothering me, not everyday you find someone so genuinely interested in your troubles. "Well see, I'm going into my senior year at high school, and to this day I'm not sure what I want to do for the rest of my life." "Ah, I see." The man said with a thoughtful expression on his face. He continued. "You remind me of myself as a child. What is it that your interested in?" This man was a complete stranger, but for some reason I couldn't keep anything from him. " I'd really love to be a writer when I get older, but I'm afraid I wont hit it big, and I will have wasted my life. I feel like I wouldn't be able to support a family, but I can't see myself doing anything else." "Well then." he said. " I think you should try and become a famous writer!" He seemed very stern when he said this. "Why do you feel so strongly about me becoming a writer?" I asked. " Because I can tell you have passion, I can tell that you sir, will help many people with your writing." Curious, I asked. "Well what do you do Dan? What are you passionate about?" "I love talking to people, we were put here to interact, yet more and more I see people not talking to strangers. Just because of the fact that they are strangers. In my mind everyone is a stranger till you meet them, then there is nothing strange about having a conversation." I understood what he was saying. "Well what do you do for a living?" I asked. "Nothing." He said happily. "In fact I sleep right where we sit." I looked up and there was a smile on his face. "You didn't expect this?" he asked. " No sir, I thought you had some business type job, looking at your nice suit." He says "Bah, once upon a time, I used to be CEO for a fortune 500 company, just down the street actually. I worked long hours, skipped meals, and ignored my family. At the end of the day, profit justified everything, I could buy my family anything, and I didn't realize how ignorant I was. See, about fifteen years ago, my wife Linda was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. About nine years ago, she passed." "I'm sorry to hear that" I replied. He continued. "My son had been in a motorcycle accident when he was only thirteen years old. He too passed. This left me all alone in my multi-million dollar home. I was deeply depressed for the next few years, still working long shifts, still skipping meals, and no matter how much money id rake in, no matter how many bills I could pay, I wasn't happy." Why was he telling me this? I am almost a complete stranger. He went .. enough time went by, and I still was unhappy, I realized it was time for a change. I resigned from the company, and I sold my house. I gave all my money away to charity. See, living in this park, with no money, and no family, I've come to terms with the fact that money cant buy happiness. Life isn't about who has the fastest car, or the nicest house. Life is about building relationships." Was this man serious? Did Dan really do all this? I didn't know, but I was fascinated. "How do you eat?" I asked. " There is a man at the Food Mart who takes care of me, see, before all of this happened, he worked for my company, when he decided to resign, and open up a chain of Food Marts across the country, I was the one who financed the first store. Its because of that relationship that I built years ago, that I can survive as well as you." "Well, shouldn't you be telling me to drop writing? Shouldn't you be telling me to just drop everything and start building relationships?" I asked. " No, I'm passionate about talking with people, and building relationships, your passionate about writing. Through writing, you can build your own relationships. I know I love writers. When it's late in the afternoon, and people don't want to talk, I'll pick up a book, and that's how I get through the rest of the day." My next class was starting soon, so I had to bid the man farewell. "I've got class in twenty minutes sir, so I have to get going." "That's quite alright, I enjoyed the company, and anytime you want to come back I'll probably be here." I looked in my bag, and handed the man some papers I had put together with a stapler. "Here, this is a piece I just finished, when you get bored, you can take a look at it." "Thanks a million" he said.
Later that night on the eleven o'clock news, a headline catches my eye.
"A man in Central Park dies without a name."
I feared for the worst, so the next day before class; I went to that bench and sat alone.
After a few minutes I noticed there was a stack of papers under the bench with a note on the top.
The note read:
"Ben Wheely –
If your getting this note, it means that I have passed. Don't feel remorse for me, I am happy now, I am with my family, I have missed them so. I rather enjoyed your work. I can tell you now, that you will make a life for yourself through writing. Now for something that didn't get brought up yesterday, I too am a writer. I spend a lot of time at the library, and after building a relationship with the staff, they let me print for free. Under the note, is your story, and under your story, is a stack of my own work, I thought you'd get the most from it all.
Enjoy your life Ben. I enjoyed mine.