Joseph Barnes, like many of you people at some point, would wonder about the meaning of life. At first, he wouldn't dwell on such thoughts - especially those odd times when his brain wondered to them when he was in the shower or on the toilet. But all that changed in an odd moment. Maybe the oddest moment of Joseph's life. Which isn't saying much because his life had been very ordinary. Well, there were a few adventures here and there. Like that time he took a vacation to the Bahamas and saw...
Sorry. I don't get to talk to people that often. Least not about something like this. But, anyway, on with the story.
Like he had every Monday through Friday for the past 13 years, Joseph boarded the same bus at the same stop and said hi to the same people. Some people he had been saying hi to for years and others for just a few months. He was making his way downtown to his job at the bank. The same bank he had worked at for 13 years. Why he took the bus was a mystery to me! I mean, he had a really nice car. Leather interior, AM/FM radio, sunroof, cruise cont...
Right, not important.
What is important is that Joseph had decided that this would be his last day on the bus. His last day at his job. His last day on this planet.
"Good morning, Joseph!" Tessa, the bank manager, said as Joseph stepped through the double glass doors. "You already have a customer."
"This early?" Joseph looked at his watch. It was a quarter 'til 10 and his shift didn't officially start for fifteen minutes.
"Gonna be one of those days, I guess." Tessa smiled and headed to her office.
Already downtrodden, Joseph's heart sank even lower. He was hoping today would be a slow day and he could get his affairs in order quickly and quietly. So he took his time getting to his office. Using the bathroom, getting coffee, whatever he could do to delay the inevitable. Which, I must say, is really rude! People have things to do! The world doesn't revolve around one person! I mean, I could of been...AHEM! Moving on.
"So how can I help you today Mr...?" Joseph said as he approached his desk.
"Call me Adam." The stranger replied as he stood and stretched out his hand.
The two men were a study in opposites. Joseph, while only 40, looked beaten and frazzled by everything life had thrown at him. His hunch, unkempt hair, and wrinkled shirt told of a man that had nearly given up. Correction, had given up.
On the other hand, Adam seemed to take everything in his stride. He wore a three piece tailored suit - black, of course - and every single hair atop his head was in place. Almost like they had been tailored as well.
"Opening an account and setting up a trust fund?" Joseph took his seat and began to boot his severely outdated computer.
"That your family?" Adam pointed to a picture on Joseph's desk.
Joseph seemed somewhat taken aback by the question. Like no one had ever asked it before. Maybe that was the case. I mean, the man in the picture was obviously Joseph. But there was no way Adam could know who the woman and the two young boys were. Well, he did know but that's not really important. The look on Joseph's face told Adam he shouldn't have asked such a question. Again, very rude of him. Adam was just trying to segue into an important conversation. If I could have thought of a better...
I really have to stop doing that. Sorry for the interruption, folks. I will endeavour to make this the last one.
Joseph couldn't put his finger on it, but he felt oddly drawn to the man. Only a moment ago, he had been peeved at him for asking about his family. But...maybe he should open up. It had been so long since he had been able to just talk to someone.
"Yes it is." Joseph finally said after what would have felt like an eternity to a human. Adam didn't feel like any time had passed at all.
"Beautiful family." Adam smiled. "Must be great to go home to them every night."
"...Yeah." Joseph's face became flush. "Really great. Now...about that trust fund. Have a beneficiary lined-up?"
"What are their names?" Adam hadn't heard or had ignored Joseph's question.
"Michael and James." Joseph responded automatically before his brain could stop his mouth. He stopped typing and looked away, obviously trying to compose himself.
"You want to see James again, don't you?" For the first time in the entire exchange, Adam wasn't smiling.
"How did you know about James? Who are you? Security!" But even as as Joseph spoke, he noticed the change.
Time had frozen. The coworkers around his desk stood in mid-step or in the middle of biting a doughnut. Only Adam was still moving.
"Let me show you something, Joseph."
With that, Adam and Joseph were instantly transported. They were now standing in the parking lot of a building Joseph knew all too well. I had been there too, in fact. As recently as he had. For the very same reason. And even more recently for a totally different reason.
"Why are you doing this?" Joseph was holding back tears. The shock of seeing the building had overridden the shock of being instantly transported there. "Who are you?"
"Just a man trying trying to decrease his future workload." Adam smiled at a joke to which only he knew the punchline. "Look! He's here!"
Joseph followed Adam's gaze across the parking lot and saw a man climbing out of his car. It seemed like reporters appeared from out of nowhere and began to pepper the man with questions, so many that it was impossible for the man to answer them all. So he didn't answer any. He just kept walking.
When he was close enough for Joseph to see his face, he felt like he was looking at a mirror. Same chin, same eyes, same hooked nose. It was then he made out a single question from the reporters: "Dr. Barnes. Is it true you refuse to accept any money for your work until you have cured the cancer that your brother had?" As before, the man didn't answer. Simply kept walking towards the doors of the hospital.
Joseph couldn't hold back his tears. He didn't move to dry them or lower his face. He let the tears flow openly down his face. But even he could hold that for long. Soon he fell to his knees and wept.
"I suppose I don't have to tell you who that was." Adam knelt down beside Joseph, tears seemed to be ready to spill from his eyes. "That man is going to save a lot of people."
"But...why?" Joseph stammered. "Why show me this? Why does what my other son does with his life have anything to do with me ending mine?" Joseph was starting to catch one. He knew why Adam was there.
Without a word, Adam waved his hand and they were back in the bank and the others were no longer frozen in place.
"Michael is just as depressed as you are about James's death. But he is going to make sure others don't have to suffer a similar fate. But...he needs you, Joseph. Without your help, nothing you saw will happen. You can make a new beginning out of a tragic end. That is what your life means. It may seem like nothing to you, but it will mean more than you will ever know to others."
Joseph looked into Adam's eyes and felt a warmth in his chest. In a part of his heart that had been cold since James's death. Could he really make a difference just by living and grieving? If it meant saving thousands of others, he would do it!
I left the bank that day knowing my mission...I mean Adam left the bank that day and...Who I am kidding? Can't keep it secret from you.
I left the bank that day knowing my mission had been successful. In just a few years, my work load would decrease dramatically. I would probably have to buy a shredder for all the lists I would no longer be using. It was a good day.