Red Light Myles
By Katy Marx • September 13, 2017
I'm sitting at my desk looking at a picture of "my friend Myles" and know I need to share our story. Myles is not really his name, just what I call him. That’s him though. The blur across the street, dancing and waving at cars roaring past. He changed my life. He is an important part of my day, five days a week. I think of that blur as my friend. This is how that came to be.
For the past year and a half, or so, I have seen Myles most every workday morning. In the beginning I didn’t pay much attention to Myles… Just another begger on the freeway off-ramp who traps work-weary commuters at a stoplight that seems to always be red.
Over time a few things dawned on me. The first was that it was always the same guy at this off-ramp. Not like others, where they tend to switch off. The next was that he never actually asked for anything. Just danced and waved at everyone. Then eventually, and perhaps most important, was that he was ALWAYS happy. No sob story here!
Some days he was dancing and playing a string-less guitar along to whatever was coming out of his giant yellow headphones. Most days he would just bounce around waving a piece of torn cardboard, with illegible scribble on it, at cars. Dancing, bouncing, smiling and waving. Always smiling.
Myles slowly, subconsciously, became part of my morning routine. I noticed this one day, only because he wasn’t there. Myles was absent. No one dancing and waving at me. I missed him. I worried that something had happened to him. I started to look for him every morning as I came down the ramp to that (still always) red light. Once in a very great while Myles would be absent. I would arrive at work feeling like something wasn’t quite right; and wondering about him.
One morning, after one of these absences, I was so relieved to see him that it was like the sun had come out after a week-long storm. I sat at the (still always) red light watching his morning jig. I realized that I, too, was smiling and found myself waving back. His face burst into an impossibly wider grin, he blew me a kiss and yelled “Bless You! Have a blessed day”!
Wow. For something so small as a wave this man offered up blessings to my whole day. I finished the drive to work that morning feeling lighter, happier and… Well… Blessed, I suppose.
This nano-second of exchange left me swimming in thought about how good I suddenly felt, and why. Something so small. A smile, a nod, a wave and a blessing… In that moment I forgot to carry the weight of day-to-day life. I found myself focused on that good, light feeling.
Instead of work deadlines, household to-do lists and all the people relying on me for more than a smile and a wave, I focused on really seeing everything and everyone around me. I focused on seeing the beauty, the story behind every building, person, car, or exchange.
I counted blessings in my life the rest that day, without trying. They just flooded my thoughts and in turn everything had a more positive hue to it.
Time marched on and every morning I started looking more and more forward to seeing “My homeless guy”. (He hadn’t become “Myles” yet).
Every once in a while, when I was first or second car at the (still red) light, he would walk directly to my window simply to say good morning and show me his torn cardboard. It is so worn and faded that I have still not been able to make out quite what it says. I have only surmised that it is a piece of scripture.
Somewhere along the way we started chatting whenever I was first or second at the (ever-bleeding-red) light. Somewhere further along the way these became my favorite mornings. I always carry a cold bottle of water and maybe a snack with me in the morning now. Just in case it’s one of those mornings. I’m sad when I have to return a full bottle to the fridge at night.
He might tell me a quick story, now and then. Sometimes it takes weeks for him to finish one as that light now seems to turn green too quickly on “story day”. He’ll say “I’ll have to save the rest of this story” as he backs quickly out of traffics way. He always does. He always remembers right where he left off. I find this amazing. Of all the cars, all the stories… He’ll remember just what he’d been telling me four days ago (or last week) and where he’d stopped.
One day I was lost in thought and suppose I was driving, pretty much, on auto-pilot. I don’t think I even noticed that I was at “our” light, much less had I looked for him that morning. I came around only when out of the corner of my eye I spotted Myles marching, determinedly past cash being waved out a window, straight to my car. “You look sad today, don’t be sad”. He grabbed my hand and said a prayer for me. It took me a minute to process what he had said. Then another to process that this man had walked past money, what I assumed was his purpose for dancing on the corner every morning, because “I looked sad”.
My life changed in that moment. That moment is still changing my life. I haven’t landed on just how it changed me yet, but I feel it swirling around inside me constantly.
He told me, shortly after that day, that the reason he is always happy is that he lives his life with purpose. Something he learned from the “Great Reverend Myles Munroe”. (Where my name for him came from).
Now as a strong, independent, opinionated woman, and with a pool of associates and friends coming from every and all walk(s) of life, some of Myles Munroes opinions offend me to no end. I cannot deny, however, that he also had great impact, for the better, in some people’s lives. He told my “homeless guy” to live with purpose. My Myles found his purpose sharing his cardboard scripture with weary commuters. Smiling and waving and loving people. He lacks nothing. Needs for nothing. He is happy because he “lives with purpose”.
Live with Purpose. Hmmm. Ok. What purpose? Here is where the greatest quandary lies. Months after he explained his version of “Live With Purpose”, the question “what is my purpose” continues to summersault through my mind daily. The journey to finding that answer, perhaps, is another story for another day.
Today, first and foremost on my mind, is my friend Myles. My homeless begger who has inspired me, makes me smile daily and has become an important person in my life. A man who, in exchange for a smile, an occasional bottle of water or snack and a daily wave has given me the great gift of seeing the world differently. He has given me a lesson in SEEING the people around me. He has reminded me to set down the daily grind for a few minutes every day and just be. And, of course… Look for my damned purpose.
I am and will be a better version of myself because one morning I took, literally, one second to step out of the race. I smiled and waved at a stranger who, in turn, changed me.
I challenge you now. Turn off your auto-pilot for a day. Look around you. Look at your life, your surroundings, your commute, even just your grocery store with eyes that truly see. What magic lies in front of you? Do you have a Myles in your life that you just haven’t noticed yet? Watch for them. They will touch your life in ways you can’t even dream.
Most of all, don’t forget that sometimes a red light isn’t in your path to “stop” you. Sometimes a red light is simply to pause you long enough that you don’t miss something important. Cherish those red light moments! They come far to infrequently in this go-go-go world.
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