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The Highway Shadow

I was sitting at a red light at an intersection along a highway, when I saw the silhouette of a man walk by. He would have gone unnoticed if it had not been for the brief flicker of the headlights of the car across from me caused by him passing in front of them. All I could see of him through the heavy rain, darkness of night, and blindness from headlights was that he wore a tattered sweat jacket, zipped up with the hood pulled over his head. His posture was slightly hunched, and his hands were deep in his pockets in an attempt to ward off the cold wind and rain. I could not see his face, nor could I tell the color of his skin.

This man gave me no features to judge him by. No face for me to see the weary lines of stress or the wrinkles of laughter. No skin for me to view the scars of tough times, or the leathery-tanned hide of a hardworking man. I will never learn his name, or the names of his family. I’ll never know if he’s happy, if he’s felt sorrow and love, if he has someone to care for him, or if he’s alone in this world. Was he sick, healthy, an athlete, a scholar?

I wondered why he was walking alone, so late at night. Perhaps his car had broken down. Maybe he has no car, or a home to go to, and walking is the only thing he could do. Possibly, he simply enjoyed walking in the rain, or he was doing so to clear his head and to think through a dilemma in his life. Was he desperately looking for help from someone, or could he be the type of man whose pride will not allow him to accept any favors from others.

As I pondered these things, I realized that this shape walking by represented the purest form on innocence that I had never encountered. I had nothing to judge this man by, no preconceptions to affect my thoughts of him, no basis for any sort of prejudice. I had no reason to think he should be treated any worse or any better than anyone else. No matter what, I and everyone else on Earth make judgments when they meet someone, even though most of the time we don’t realize we’re doing it. It could be based on gender, looks, race, actions, or the sound of the person’s voice. I had none of this to go on. For the first time in my life, I realized that I had just seen someone that was equal to anyone else.

Chances are that I will never meet this man, and even if I did, I would not know it was he. Honestly, I hope we never do meet. I’d like to preserve my only image of him, that of a shadow walking along a cold, rainy highway at night. I don’t want the blank slate to become smeared with reality. I wished him well, then drove on.

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