The One Less Traveled

I know a man. He would say he’s ordinary, but I know he’s extraordinary. He took the road less traveled, and for me, it has made all the difference.  From him, I’ve learned the truth about love and sacrifice and humility.

I thought I learned all about those things growing up. I’d learned about love from soap operas and reality tv. I’d offered sacrifices to my brothers– “You drank out of my can of Pepsi? Well, I don’t want it anymore. Just keep it.” I’d experienced humility in gymnastics class when I took an unanticipated dive off the balance beam while uttering a few choice profanities. When I got married and had children and I learned more about love, but I still didn’t understand it.

Then I met a man. He has a friendly smile and a self-deprecating wit that can convulse a crowd with laughter while pointing out with laser-like precision, the folly and humanity of each of us, himself included. But he never leaves it there; he teaches us how to overcome those things if we desire. He treats every person with respect, no matter how stupid I think their question or remark is. He controls his snarkiness with a skill I can only marvel at (not being able to control my own).

He always makes time for me and anyone else that needs him, or wants him, or dislikes him enough to want to tell it to his face. People come to him to be unburdened and he welcomes them day and night. (He meets less often with happy, contented people; they don’t need him.) At his feet, we dump our sorrow and grief and anger and confusion and addiction and ignorance and hatred. When I’m with him, I know I’m the center of his attention, no matter how full his inbox is or how deep the garbage around him.  And when I leave, my burden is always easier to bear.

He spends his days knee deep in the misery that pools around him. I glimpsed it once, before he knew I was there. He was slumped in his chair, his head in his hands, the burdens of other’s squarely on his shoulders. And when I sat across from him, I could see it in his eyes and feel it in the air. I knew he didn’t get enough sleep and went many times without a meal.

Many people love him, but aren’t interested in him or his life or what he goes through. And I wonder if he sometimes feels alone amidst the humanity pressing about him constantly. Sometimes, even though you know you’re not alone, loneliness wraps around you and through you like a shroud. And I know, although he hides it well, that he longs for a moment of solitude.

I witness others watching him the way I watched my brothers around my can of Pepsi, hoping to catch him stumbling or better yet, falling down. They’re so intent on him as he journeys down his narrow road, they fail to see how often they themselves trip over the debris littering their own wide road. He faces the animosity aimed at him from every direction with unflinching humility, but I wonder how it affects him when he tries to sleep at night.

I could not walk in his shoes; it’s hard enough walking in my own and they’re much smaller. But he treads with a joy and humor that belie the things he hears and witnesses day after day. I’ve heard people ask him if he regrets his life. A look  of sincere astonishment crosses his face. Then he breaks into a smile that I’d call radiant if it didn’t sound so cheesy, and he says simply, genuinely,  “No. I love being a priest.”

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

Robert Frost two paths diverged

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25 comments on “The One Less Traveled

  1. Thank you for this post–on many levels.

    I’ve been so frustrated lately with the fact that no one seems to “get it,” or at least write about “it,” whatever “it” is. I crave this articulation and insight–true writing as an art–instead of recycled material I’ve read a million times before. This is beautiful, this is soulful, this is art. You shared his story, one I imagine he would never deign to tell, and we’re richer for it.


    • Thanks so much, Abby. As “cheesy” as it sounds, it means a lot to me.

      It’s scary to put yourself out on a limb. Thanks for helping me stay on it!

      I’ve missed you. Baseball is on the way!!!!


  2. What a timely post. I recently was discussing the role of our priest with my mom. All he does, day-in and night-out for the people entrusted to him by God. He rarely takes a break, in fact, when he’s forced to take a break once a year, he gives us the distinct impression he will miss us terribly while he’s gone recharging his own batteries. Those that are called to serve God in such a capacity amaze me with their unrelenting tenacity to reach out to each one of us and help pull us through the many messes we create for ourselves and help us reconcile with our Creator. I pray for our preists daily; I know they need the support. And I know they pray for us.



  3. Hey Dawn,
    That was said so beautiful and it touched my heart. Made me think how good we have it when Priest will never know how those feelings will feel in a married life.

    Love Ann
    s you Sunday at RCIA


    • True, they may not experience the feelings a married couple has for each other, but I think they experience some deep, beautiful feelings in their vocation that we will never know.

      Thanks for stopping by, Ann.


  4. I have to say he sounds like just the kind of man I enjoy meeting. A very nice portrait of a special guy


  5. This piece is beautifully written, and expresses what I have seen in so many of our priests. Thank you for sharing your work.


  6. Reminds me of Philippians 2:3* Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5* Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, * being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. “He” wants to “meet” all of us and we will all eventually meet him. steve


  7. Dawne,
    This was beautifully written. Thank you. I hope you don’t mind I posted a link to my Facebook page. It really inspired me to pray for our priests.


  8. I was waiting to see who it was, it could have been lots of people that we each have known in our past, that special person that has a way to see things as they are but with the grace to see how they can be seen as how they may have been; the good with the bad. I have known several that could have been that person. This story made me think of them and realize that its their being in my life that has given me some perspective for seeing life in its fullest measure.


    • Hi Larry. You made me think too. I have known more than one of those special persons you describe. The interesting thing is many of them are priests.

      That’s not to say that only priests are special or that priests are perfect. I know one priest who is always telling people to knock him off the pedestal because he doesn’t belong there.


  9. It’s all about the vocation of service. I like it.


  10. Captivating and touching. We should all be so fortunate to know such a person–man, woman, or child…


    • Hi, Lorna.

      I am very fortunate to know him. I think there are many people like him. You just don’t realize it unless you know them well. Lots of times, it’s hidden under their humility.


  11. Every once in a while, it’s good for him to accept a Simon… 🙂
    Or at least a hug and some good news. 🙂


  12. What a nice thingto read that was. He sounds a lovely and special man


  13. You are so talented! Thank you for writing!


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