This happens to me often: Another older guy—slightly disheveled but personable—engages me in an uninvited conversation about a subject close to his heart. It’s uncanny each time it happens—What did that person see in me that told him it was acceptable to chat me up without any introduction?
I’m pretty sure I know the answer: That guy sees in me someone who’s safe. Someone who won’t criticize him or think he’s weird. Someone who sees my perhaps-unkempt persona as a sign of like-mindedness. There might even be an informal brotherhood that we older untidy guys share, a fraternity of grubbiness that both introduces and binds us to each other.
There may be more to this: I wonder how many of the biblical characters we revere were scruffy old guys. Their hair going in wild directions, their clothing mismatched, their visages radiating something deeper than mere passion or earnestness—these prophets, musicians, poets, writers, warriors and patriarchs might have been the progenitors of today’s guild of older men who have something to share even if they don’t quite project the niceties of polite society.
If those shabby Bible times older guys were actually among the Scriptures’ most-admired leaders, is it possible that some of the guys who approach me—maybe you?—have within them/us some inner qualities that might make us all part of a centuries-old company of the prophets. That what we say and think about could be worth listening to? That we can’t be judged by the clothing we wear, the aromas we waft into the atmosphere or our wild appearances?
I’m only asking questions here, but I can tell you this: I will keep paying attention to scruffy old guys who come up to me and want to talk.
They could also be angels unaware….!
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