Daniel is a young man that I have been honored to get to know over the last several weeks. He frequents the coffee shop that I do. I am there 2 nights a week for an hour, as my sons practice Martial Arts a few buildings down. I see Daniel on Thursdays.
Thursday, at this particular coffee shop, is open mic night – Daniel is always there, eager to make new friends and is excitedly impatient, waiting for that moment to arrive when he gets to stand up on stage and be a performing comedian, or share with the audience his latest writings. You will usually see him sitting down at a table rehearsing his material, or making his rounds with familiar faces and even new faces that come in. He is a breath of fresh air. Not a shy bone in his body.
At first seeing Daniel, it is apparent he has a handicap. He is slow in his speech and unstable in his physical movements. I assumed it was Cerebral Palsy.
Yesterday afternoon, after ordering my Latte and finding a table outside with the sun hitting my back, I sat by myself – spending the moments enjoying the sights and people watching. I will admit, I was a bit bored. Then, I see the door swing open and Daniel steps out, walking directly to me, as if that was his mission. When he gets to my table, he asks if he can sit down. I agree, happily. He sits and tells me his name; I tell him my name, extending my hand for a handshake… with me making the comment that his hands were ice cold. He says it was due to his iced tea that he was holding as he sets it on our table.
I begin asking Daniel if he is going to perform his comedy tonight. He states he is, and then asks politely if he can read me his material. I oblige, so he pulls out his pocket notebook and flips through the pages finding what it is he wrote that day, to perform at open mic night.
As he begins reading me his written words from his notebook, something happens in me. I soften. I realize that what he is reading isn’t comedy at all, rather the most beautiful poetry I have probably ever heard. His material is right up there with the Greats. He continues to flip through the pages and reads to me, more and more of his writings. I am mesmerized by this young man’s talent and willingness to be so open and share so much of himself. I was very moved.
After he finishes reading to me, we begin to have the most wonderful conversation. I am known in my circles for asking lots and lots of questions, as I am inquisitive by nature. Not in a nosey fashion, by any means… rather, that of pure interest in another person’s experiences. Besides, how often are we graced with getting to sit across from another and connect and have conversation where questions are welcomed and answers are anticipated? These are my favorite times.
Daniel gifted me that – conversation with no barriers or walls. He welcomed my questions and I waited for his answers. It was at this moment where he warned me he was a Glory Hog. So it worked for us… him wanting attention, and me asking my pressing questions of interest.
In this process, this is what I found out about my new dear friend – enjoy getting to know Daniel… I surely did:
Daniel is 25 years old. He was riding his bike home after school one day when he was 7 years old, with his sister, who was 12. He was hit by a car, knocking him to the ground so hard, that his head hit first. This left his life in peril and him remaining in a coma for 6 months with major head trauma.
When he awoke from his coma, he was diagnosed with having Cerebral Palsy on the left side of his brain, and traumatic injury on the right side of his brain. Daniel would never be the same. He shared with me yesterday that he still is not done healing and is getting stronger every day. He also suffers severely from headaches… hence, him being at the coffee shop so frequently. He says caffeine helps with the pain. The Owner at the coffee shop has also hired him to be a Sign Waver at a nearby corner. He states he LOVES his job.
I continued to delve into the mind of Daniel, as he so graciously allowed me… with him offering up that his parents are no longer around due to alcoholism. His father died quite a few years ago due to the disease. He stated that his mom and dad met at an AA Meeting, then shortly after meeting, got married. He did not state where his mother is today, but concluded she wasn’t there for him growing up. He is very close with his sister and loves his niece and nephew.
He lives with roommates at an establishment that helps adults with brain injuries be as independent as they can be. His mode of transportation is the Transit and his two feet – to which he read me a poem about how often he needs to buy shoes. I will admit, it was comedic. He had me delightfully laughing due to the subject matter and the picture he painted with his words… a heap pile of shoes getting higher and higher in his bedroom.
I asked Daniel if he had a girlfriend and he eagerly states, “YESSSSSSS!” But then his face changed a bit to sadness as he shared with me that his relationship is long distance. He states they text all the time and have met only once. She only lives 3 cities out from where he and I reside, but for him, it feels very far – being subject to Public Transit schedules, etc. I asked him if she was pretty, there was a long pause. I thought his answer was going to be ‘No’, seeing as it took him awhile to answer and the expression on his face, but this wasn’t the case at all. He said he couldn’t summon the words to describe her, continuing to say she has the ‘shiniest soul he has ever seen’.
He continued to share with me that he is a flirt. He told me to brace myself because he was going to start flirting with me. He says, “Ready?” And then it started… his poetic words of what he saw in me. I will not give further detail as to what he shared with me… those are for me to cherish and not to publicly gloat in the things he made me recognize in myself.
Daniel admitted to me that he gets sad sometimes seeing that people are always so blind to experiences and always so rushed. He stated that even though he is slow in his movements and his speech, he is somewhat grateful because it has caused him to slow down and see the beauty in everybody and everything. His answer made me well up with tears. I could not have agreed any more with Daniel on his observation.
I felt a pull at my gut to speak my truth to Daniel as our conversation deepened, as I felt free to do so. Sadly, so many times… humans ignore that feeling to express our true hearts content and we let that special moment be lost forever. Daniel taught me in that moment, to appreciate moments like these, even more so, than I already do – so, I said exactly what I wanted to say to this Dear Soul sitting across from me. I shared with Daniel that he was, and is, the definition of Truth. I told him that he gifts others the ability to settle down for a moment and live in the moment. I told him that being in his company makes you want to never have that moment end, as it is such a true and beautiful place to reside.
Daniel shared with me earlier in our conversation that he realizes he is not ‘whole’ like most people are. But after spending 60 minutes with this young man, and being graced enough to walk in his shoes for a spell, I had to express to him that I think he is one of the most ‘whole’ human beings I have ever spoken with. I shared with him that he understands life better than most of us do, and that he lives courageously with no fear and no boundaries.
Our conversation ended when it was time for him to prepare to be on stage, and for me to get my kids from practice. We stood up and he offered me a handshake… I told him I would not settle for such a gesture and asked for a hug instead. He smiled at my bravery. His hug was as true as his words.
Daniel will never be forgotten in my life, and I now know that Thursdays will be my lucky day if I get to open the doors to that Coffee Shop, run into my new friend, and pick up where we left off…
Thank you Daniel, for the gift of You –