Homage

One night a few years ago, when I couldn't sleep, even after giving myself several yawns of encouragement in the mirror, I decided to drive out to the airport. If I couldn't take the journey of sleep with most of mankind in my city. I thought, at least I could go watch the comings and goings of those in transit. In the goings is always a promise of new beginnings; and in the comings a sweetness, as when the lost return.

I know now that it was not whimsy that betook me out to that airy crossroads. I had been there only a short while when I saw, standing at a window and looking pensively at the sky, the writer whose books I loved better than anybody's in the world, Elie Wiesel.

Every book of his I had read many times, and some I knew almost by heart. I knew his childhood like my own. How he and his family were deported to a Nazi concentration camp. How he lost everyone. I knew his struggles after the war to go on living without seeking revenge or falling into self-pity. I knew all the long years of trying to fight evil simply by remaining human.

And on my bedroom wall I even had an old, faded newspaper photo of his face. There were newer, clearer photos, from the covers to his books, that I could have put on my wall, but none with the smile he was smiling in that one. Take the sadness of a man who has seen people both at their best and at their worst, who has asked why the very skies over the terrible scenes of the Holcaust did not break their silence and cry murder. Add to this the hope that the best in people will prevail, and the understanding that the silence of skies speaks only for them, and not for God, whose sky is the heart itself. That was his smile.

It was impossible, being in the presence of this man, not to want to do something wonderful for him. To bear witness, somehow, to my love for him, my gratitude for all the meanings he'd given to his life and then shared.

Suddenly a voice announced that a flight was bording. Breaking off his revery, Elie Wiesel picked up his flight bag and walked hurriedly almost straight toward me.

To my joy, inspiration arrived before opportunity was lost. I did something so simple it was almost sweet. I bowed to him. And it was such a sepp bow that my head went down to my knees, and such a wide bow that my arms swung out to my sides, and such a shy bow that my eyes closed tight. I held it for a long moment.

When I finally arose from my bow and opened by eyes. Elie Wiesel had gone. Had he taken a sudden turning and missed my bow? Had he seen it, given it his smile, and then -- for he is very shy himself -- hurried on? I gave a sigh.

Then I noticed them, two very young children, a boy and a girl, standing hand in hand a few feet away, looking at me as if they wished I would do my wondrous bow at least once more, so they could forget how sleepy they were.

I bowed to them, too. And a voice in me whispered, "Not to worry if he saw, or didn't see. To honor children is to honor him."

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