The late Jane Mercer was a lovely lady. She was an accomplished artist but I think her greatest gift was her ability to write poems. Jane became a widow at the age of 51. Her children were grown. She was a beautician but after her husband died she was devastated. She didn’t want to cut hair full time and just didn’t know what to do.
Her friends told her to get a job outside the home. She didn’t think she was qualified to do anything. With her friends encouragement she applied for and got a job at the Clay County Health Department.
Jane was not a rich woman but she was comfortable in her home and social environment. She loved helping people. Her new job gave her that opportunity as she sometimes went into their homes to render a service. But occasionally she felt a little intimidated by some clients who lived a different life style than she was used to.
One day she was told to go pick up a man named George and take him to a doctor’s appointment. When she got to his house her heart sank and she felt very uncomfortable. George’s home was run down and had stuff scattered all over the yard. When he came out to the car Jane noticed his clothes were tattered and worn. He looked disheveled and needed a haircut and a shave.
She didn’t want to be unkind but was a little anxious. She thought she’d just get him to the office and once inside she could sit across the room away from him until it was time to take him home.
On the way to the office Jane noticed when she questioned him he always answered with a “Yes, Mam” or “No Mam.” When they got to the office George held the door for her.
The waiting room was full except for two chairs setting side by side so Jane had to sit by George. The wait was lengthy and eventually they started to chat. Jane learned a lot about George during that time. She realized that she had misjudged him. He was a very kind, polite man who was just down on his luck. Her feelings about him changed completely. When she got home that night she wrote this poem.
I sat by George the other day.
He’s a bum (or so they say.)
His hair’s unkempt, his clothes a fright,
But with no other chairs in sight,
I had to sit by George.
He never learned to read or write
And yet he stood to be polite.
He looked at me, his face was kind.
And all at once I didn’t mind
That I had to sit by George.
Time went by, he was still there.
Yet someone else was in his chair.
The bum was gone, he’d left no trace.
A human being took his place.
I’m glad I sat by George.
This short little poem is the essence of don’t judge a man by what’s on his body but by what’s in his heart. Thank you Jane. The world could sure use some of your poetry today.
Linda Messmer can be reached at 812-448-8725.