The Kindness of a Stranger

Contributor: Harry Noussias

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Every man has his destiny.

He suddenly awoke with that uneasy feeling. This was quite unusual for the coldhearted, uncaring, ruthless, businessman. No sense in trying to go back to sleep. Something just wasn’t right. Fluffing the pillow or turning over on his other side wasn’t going to help. The uneasiness was just too overpowering.

Maybe a walk before going to the office would help.

On a bridge not far away stood another man staring at the murky water below. He too had an uneasy feeling. To jump or not to jump, that was the question.

As the businessman exited his home he could see in the very far off distance, in that other side of town, the dark cloud which was belching out of the smokestacks of his factory. Normally it would have been a joyous sight for him. Production meant money, lots of money.

This time it was different.

For the first time he noticed the slight stinging in his eyes from the very fine nearly imperceptible layer of dust particles that covered all surfaces everywhere - the tree leaves, the mail boxes, his BMW, everything. Why hadn’t he noticed it before?

The ruthless businessman was noticing everything. The other man, the one on the bridge, was noticing almost nothing. He stood on that bridge not paying any attention to the birds joyfully singing or to the beauty of the wild flowers that lined the river’s banks. He only stared at the murky water flowing beneath. To jump or not to jump, that was still the question.

Why did the businessman choose to walk over the bridge instead of walking in some other direction? Perhaps it was destiny.

Destiny cannot be changed.

The troubled businessman stopped dead in his tracks. It took less than a thousandth of a second to process the information about the contemplator with emotionless eyes and a sorrowful face about to end it all. He sensed determination. If it’s one thing that he understood, it was determination.

Maybe this explained that uneasy feeling. Something was causing him to be here at this exact moment, something that instilled purpose and meaning within him. Here was an opportunity to act unselfishly and do some good for someone else. It was a philosophically profound revelation from within the depths of his being.

Surely he could talk this man out of self-destruction. It’s just a matter of knowing how to negotiate. Ruthless businessmen are keen negotiators and he was an absolute master.

The conversation began. Things cannot be that bad. You have a lot to live for. What about your family? Think of them. There is always help available. God loves you. Just step away from the railing. He watched as he spoke but noticed no change in expression on his listener’s face. It wasn’t working. None of it was working.

Giving up is not an option. Never give up. It’s just a matter of trying a different approach. So the conversation took a different turn. You’re not the only one with failings. My life hasn’t been perfect. I’ve used and abused people. I’ve been heartless, callous and often cold-blooded toward my fellow man. I am unloved and lonely. I’m very lonely. This was working. His listener was showing sympathy. He could see tears coming from his eyes and a smile, a warm compassionate, understanding smile. It was over. The man promised to come off the bridge.

The businessman walked away feeling good with the promise from the man to come off the bridge. The experience had touched and changed him deeply in a profound and irrevocable manner. Things were going to be different. He was going to be a better person. Today all his employees could take the day off with pay.

But, he would always be a businessman. That was his destiny. And even though things had changed. Destiny itself cannot be changed.

The man that contemplated ending his life would keep his promise to come off the bridge. He had shown kindness to a stranger. He too was changed by the experience. He too would fulfill his destiny. Destiny cannot be changed.

The man on the bridge smiled as he watched the businessman walk away. He paused for a moment to gaze at the beauty of the wild flowers and to listen to the birds singing and then… he jumped.

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Harry Noussias is a writer of short stories, plays and poetry. His works may be found in print and online magazines including Linguistic Erosion’s sister site Daily Love.
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