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I talked to an eccentric once.
It was in one of my last moments in Melbourne, when I was on my way to the airport. My taxi driver was in the midst of telling me his Lord of the Rings Trilogy extended-extended version of a life story. (And I love Lord of the Rings, so I was entertained)
My dad had sat in this man’s taxi five months before, so throughout our conversation, he kept trying to place whose daughter I was, but he kept shooting out the wrong names. “Tee… ah? Oh Tee! Your mother is Elaine isn’t it?”
I said, “Noooooo??” while he continued deep in thought, “Tee ….Teee….”
The manner in which he spoke told me whirlwinds about himself. He was deeply intelligent and perceptive. He had graying hair, bright eyes and had a different perspective about the world. He told me about his multiple degrees after asking about mine, and we formed our affinities with our similar fields, just, generations apart. He too, like me, had been educated in Communications, and something to do with International relations and foreign policy.
So he told me stories about his rise, fall, and the experiences he gained throughout his life. This Chinese uncle of perhaps seventy had ran a magazine, did other odd jobs, worked for the Australian government, made it pass divorce, bankruptcy, raising children and back. It was a hell of a life.
Then curious, I asked ” When did you come over to Australia?”
“1979…” He answered.
He then continued,
” that was such a long time ago…too long… back when you were still your parents’ dream…”
His statement stirred me to a wake from the groggy hours of dawn. More so was the way he said it than the actual words. It was emphasis on the ‘dream’, lyrical like a poet.
I saw into his life like flashbacks, though I, a stranger, was nowhere in it. I saw the love he must have had for his own children, to be able to know the kind of love fathers have when dreaming of their children.
Then I looked at the man driving the taxi cab, and thought of all the great, complex people in the world. Talking to him had humbled me, because this was a very real, ordinary person, with extraordinary words and an unconventional wisdom.
Some time later, I was in the kindergarten listening to my mother briefing her teachers. She went through all her key points of the day in their morning meeting, but at the end, she closed with this,
“Children grow up with the concept that the world is beautiful, don’t destroy it for them…”
Those were two unrelated quotes, with different stories, but they both showed me something. Here are ordinary people, saying and doing extraordinary things each day without motivations of Pulitzer prizes and internet adoration in the form of ‘likes’ and ‘re-tweets’. They’re just speaking plainly from what comes naturally, speaking from experience, and to me that spoke more than anything any of us could craft.
So, I once feared the ordinary, but not anymore.