“Wow,” I said, slowing down a little through the S-curves. I wanted to make sure I heard his every word.
“You gotta give it away to keep it.”
“You gotta give it away in order to keep it. I love how you put that in words. Anything.”
“Anything,” he murmured, enthusiastically, his shaved bald head glistening under dim fluorescents.
“Like with love, it only works if you're giving it–”
“If you're giving it. You gotta give it away to keep it.”
“Man, I gotta write that down.” I said. “Seriously.”
“Man, I want you to meet my daughters. Ah got three of ‘em, three girls. They ain't met you yet.”
“I wanna meet em! What are their names again, I remember Kennedy…”
“Kennedy, yup, and Paradise, and–”
He reeled backwards a little, rich with pleasant surprise. “Yeah, Yum Yum! You remember!!”
“Yeah, I was like, how could I forget a name like Yum Yum! How old are they now?”
He detailed their ages– I forget who was who, but everyone fell between one and six.
“Thank you. Ah been teachin’ em, the first thing I been teachin’ ‘em is respect. Not even earning it, just giving it.”
“Just giving it out.”
“To everything, life, people…”
“That's beautiful, man. And necessary.”
“Respect for all things. Iss key.”
“Man, Kendrick, it's good that they got– that it's somebody like you that's raising these kids, man. What you bring is valuable.”
“Aw, thanks, bro.”
“I mean that. It needs to be folks like yourself that's guiding the new... It's about good parents, you know?”
We moved on to other things. You wouldn’t guess it by looking at him, he who at first glance might be written off as “another route 7 passenger," whatever that means, or worse. A forty-something street-smart fellow in casual oversized tee and sweatpants with athletic shoes, fistbumping with his fellow OG compatriots. But everyone’s got a story beneath the surface: Kendrick’s undergraduate degree is in plant science and he used to teach horticulture in Louisiana, and now runs a landscaping business. So much for appearances…
Our conversation tonight drifted in and out with the rhythms of the bus, went up and onward in its benevolent, ever-rising circles, but the moment of greatest import was for me the beginning. I don't recall quite how we got to whatever inspired his line. You got to give it away to keep it. It overwhelmed what had come previously, and held long after he left.
I’d thought of the construct before, sure, but mostly only within the context of romance. Love as an act of giving. Yes. But to expand the idea to something approaching a life philosophy felt freeing in ways I hadn’t anticipated; it seemed imminently more realizable than the forever unsatisfied urge of consumption, acquisition. Buying things is stressful, and its high wears off quickly. But the karmic freedom found in helping others, serving, sharing out good feeling…
I’m so glad he got on my bus.