Walker
tom walsh

  

“Take a good look at it, Walker,” Timothy said, gazing at the empty shelves that lined the walls of the basement. “A beautiful library with no books. My life’s work. A beautiful desk that nobody uses to work or write on. But all of it was taking steps in a very different direction, you know.”

“Yes, I do,” Walker replied. “Lisa told me about all of the people you’ve helped.”

“Helped? I don’t know about that. Pushed along, maybe. They were all good men and women, and I felt it was my duty to give back to this world that’s given so much to me. So instead of giving them a fish, I taught them to earn the money to go to the market and buy all the fish they need. It’s been very gratifying, Walker, I’ll tell you. Lisa looks at it and sees the ten people I’ve helped, but I can’t tell you what it feels like inside to have helped. There’s no substitute for the feeling I’ve gotten, knowing that I was helping others and contributing in my own small way to the world. I’ve helped to shape people into the drawers or shelves they were meant to be.”

“What do you mean?”

“Look at it this way—before any of this wood became parts of the shelves or the desk or the chair, all of it was in pieces—just pieces of wood.  But the wood was full of potential.

"It could be shaped into anything that a carpenter wanted it to be shaped into, turning it into a beautiful finished product. Now, not all carpenters are equal in skill—you know that. If a piece of wood is shaped by a poor carpenter, the finished product will be lacking somehow, in some way.

"But if that wood is shaped by a master carpenter, then that piece will fit into this world precisely as it’s supposed to fit, whether it be a desktop or a cabinet shelf or a doorstop. And the way that I work wood is the way I try to work with people—with love and attention and caring—so that the wood and the people can reach their potential. And if someone lets you teach them, and is open to what you have to teach, then how can you go wrong?”

Walker and Timothy sat quietly for a very long time. “Why do so many people make it so hard for anyone to help them or to love them?” Walker asked finally.

Timothy chuckled. “Ah, Walker—if I could explain all of humanity’s foibles, I’d be a rich man indeed, at least as far as money goes. I believe people are like that because of fear. They fear being loved because they fear that if they’re loved, they’ll have to love back. And if they love back, they may get hurt. And many people aren’t ready to put their hearts on the line like that.  Mostly because they don’t have anything to fall back on. It’s quite a shame, really, because they hurt themselves by trying to avoid getting hurt. But we have to be willing to die many times if we’re ever going to get on with this business of living.”

“What do you mean, ‘willing to die’?” asked Walker, very confused by the words.

“That, my friend, is something that you have to learn all by yourself. We die many deaths all through our lives, if we allow ourselves to move on. If we’re unwilling to move on, of course, we die no deaths, and we never remake who we are, never move on to the next level. Some people call it being born again, and others call it letting a part of you die. Either way, it’s leaving something behind as we move on with life.”

“Someone once told me that before I would be ready to stop my journey and turn around and search for something in my past, I would have to be willing to give up who I am and become something else.”

“It sounds like that someone was very wise. But remember, just because you become something else doesn’t mean that you leave everything behind. If you become a husband, you leave behind your focus on yourself and open up a focus on others, but you still bring with you all the traits that you’ve developed over the years. We all have many beautiful qualities, and many people feel that if they change their lives, they’ll have to leave behind all that’s beautiful, all that’s fun, all that they love. But nothing could be further from the truth—they leave behind all that has been holding them back and take those things that help them move on. What’s holding you back, Walker?”

Walker shook his head slowly. “I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t feel a pull from behind—I feel a barrier up ahead, and I don’t know what it is.”

“You will,” Timothy replied. “One day, you will.”
    
   

Walker is a parable for all of us who wonder what might be the purpose of life, why bad things happen with almost as much regularity as good things, and how we can learn from the bad examples and experiences in our lives as much as we can learn from the good things. Tom Walsh's parable is a story of the ages, a timeless exploration of ideas and thoughts that all of us wonder about, a sincere and heartfelt portrait of a man who has no past and no future, but who learns to make the most of each precious present moment as it comes.

 

  
   


 
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