Every day an old man walks by my house.

He is always elegant: suit and tie, and shiny loafers.

When my house is quiet, I can hear the sound of his steps on the sidewalk.

Tac-tac-tac. He walks slowly, a half step at a time, and every four half steps, he takes a break.

He always carries two full grocery bags that he lays on the ground at every break. 

He then puts the hands in his pockets and waits. He looks around and waits.  

Each break lasts three minutes, more or less.

It takes him around twenty minutes to reach the end of the sidewalk in front of my house.

When I am lucky enough to hear his steps, I run to the window.

His perseverance, force of will, and physical strength go beyond his age and show me how men can overcome any obstacle through their inner strength. 

A couple of days ago, I heard his steps, took courage, and ran into the street.

How old are you? I asked him.

Ninety-five, he said loudly with his eyes full of tears.

You are my hero, I told him, but he couldn’t hear me.

I was a champion swimmer, he said.

You are my champion and a great life teacher, I answered him.

I can’t hear you, he told me.

I sent him a kiss. He smiled and dried the tear coming out of his eye.

Can I help you? I asked him, pointing to the grocery bags.

And this time, he did hear me. 

His head nodded a “No.”

A strong and determined “No,” that enclosed all the medals he won during his youth.

He elegantly waved at me and picked up the bags.

See you tomorrow, great teacher, I said in my mind.

While I saw him tenaciously walking away, I prayed to wake up every day with his will and strength; to keep going despite the obstacles; to find my inner strength, and proudly carry on towards my goals. 

Gheula Canarutto Nemni

Translation by Tamar Dor

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