by Parissa Shiralian
This is the story.
When I was seventeen I worked at a truck stop in California. It was my first job. I had just moved into my own place and I wasn’t too thrilled about how life was going. I kept thinking, “Is this it? This can’t possibly be the end.” My mind wasn’t at all oriented with the idea of college, taking risks, or taking the action to really change things in my life. I was very afraid of the world and distrustful of people. For so many years of my adolescence, it had felt like a wave had taken my body and thrown it up against sharp rocks along the shore. My spirit and outlook on life were very much broken.
One night a man came into the gas station to fill up his truck. He tried to make meaningful contact with me through conversation, and I blew him off by ignoring him. Then, he said, “Can I show you a magic trick?” Of course, being still quite young and childlike I agreed. He introduced himself, “I am Nathen Sinclaire, the great magician of the road!! Open your heart and be brave with mind as I wonder you with magic!” He went on to spend the next two hours keeping me company and showing me magic tricks while I worked through my shift. However, he wasn’t just showing me magic tricks. We also spoke about life, and with every topic, there was a magic trick to go along with it. He called it, “a way of seeing things differently.” By the end of my shift, I was certain he was an angel.
Growing up I had always been told that sometimes angels come disguised as people to help you through hurdles in life.
I was willing to ask him more questions and be vulnerable about my life.
I opened up to him about how alone I felt in the world, how I had a family but that home wasn’t home for me. I had experienced a lot of trauma growing up, ranging from sexual abuse to emotional abuse, which is a story for another place and another time. Nathen was very receptive to my story and reassured me that this wasn’t the end. I was eager to learn how to approach life with the grace he had. As I listened, drinking up every word that came from his mouth, I clutched the book I had brought with me to work. He stopped abruptly and said, “Hang on!! Wait a minute!! What’s that you got there!?” It was Jack Kerouac’s Desolation Angels. He gave me a huge smile, almost like he had yet another wonderful secret to share with me. He sat back, put his hand on his chin and said, “Hang on, I’ll be right back!”
I had never seen an old man run so fast. He came back coughing and nearly out of breath, and in his hand, he had a hiking stick. He went on to tell stories of how he hitchhiked from the East Coast to the West Coast, train hopped, slept by rivers, and climbed up mountains. I wish I could still remember all the details of his stories, but I was too busy being amazed by the most interesting person I had ever met. I was beaming with excitement and wonder. After I listened to all his stories he said, “I want you to have this hiking stick, and I want it to take you up mountains and to places you’ve only ever seen in your dreams.” At this point, the honor and love he showed me brought me to tears. He hugged me and said, “Everything is going to be alright my dear. You’ve got so much life to live.” We said our goodbyes, he wrote his number in my book and told me to call him any time I needed to.
We remained great friends after that. He was kind of like the father I had never had. He’d check on me, say Happy Birthday every year, etc.—all the wonderful things a friendship has to offer. He was the start of the new family I was beginning to create for myself. The strange thing about all of this is that the only time I ever saw him was that first time I met him, and yet he is such a huge piece of my life.
Years later, Nathen invited me into the Idealists of the World Facebook group. There was no introduction to the group and it was all quite a mystery to me. It was the only group he ever invited me to, so my heart knew it had to be something important. Out of curiosity, I went to visit this group and my heart was filled with yet another sense of belonging. I wasn’t at all surprised that Nathen was a part of such a beautiful community of love, beauty, and peace. I shared such a beautiful relationship in the little time I had with Nathen, and it is remarkable that he was here with all of you, too, for a while.
He encouraged everyone to love and to “walk in beauty,” which is the best legacy to ever leave behind. I am certain he has touched many hearts through the Idealists of the World Facebook group.
Not long ago, Nathen died. It was the day I feared the most but never spoke with him about because I already knew exactly what he would say to me. He’d probably remind me that life is temporary and that we all have to go through this tunnel and onto the afterlife. He’d tell me to set examples of kindness, to honor the teachings of the ones I have loved and lost, and he’d tell me something he has said a hundred times to other people; walk in beauty. I like to think he is still watching over me and that one day we will once again share the same sky. I am forever a believer that the people who come into your life come with a teaching—a lesson. It takes great courage to recognize the pain in another person and to use love and compassion to encourage a shift of their spiritual mountains. Yes, there is a lot of bad in the world, but there is also beauty worth fighting for. We are all brothers and sisters in this together, and we must all lead by example and never forget to walk in beauty.