I found myself on a very long road.
I hadn’t quite placed it in my mind’s eye yet, but it looked so…….familiar.
Some of the landmarks were recognizable, but they looked as if though they were more weathered….more aged.
I did remember that this long road had lots of mountainous terrains including wide valleys and steep grades.
But still….it was straight.
It had a starting point too….
Two other roads, left and right, broke off from the straight one into opposite directions.
Not a cross-road per say, more like a fork in the road.
Beside the long, straight road was a dirty, bumpy little side road that ran parallel to the straight one as far as the eye could see.
If I remembered right, there used to be a road-sign here but I didn’t see one now.
There was the pole that the signs had been on….but no guides.
There was an old man that sat beside this fork in the road.
He was under a big shade tree, whittling some wood with a small knife.
The old geezer was here every time I found myself at this fork in the road.
“Excuse me” I said to the old man
He didn’t look up…
“Excuse me sir” said I a little louder.
The old man spit on the ground beside his seat. He set down his knife and whittle stick, sat back against the tree and placed his hands on both his knees and looked at me with patient eyes.
“Every time you come to this fork in the road, you bother me” spit the old man.
I just looked at him….
“Have you forgotten your way again?” asked the old man as he wiped the spit from his bearded chin.
“What are you talking about” I asked slightly puzzled
“I can’t believe this” the old man said as he spit again.
“All the times you have stood right there and asked me the same damn questions….and you don’t remember even being here”
The old man had obviously mistaken me for someone else….but I pressed the old guy a little more.
“I have a very good memory, but for the life of me I don’t remember meeting you or being on these roads before, are you sure it’s me you’re talking about?”
The old man just looked at me….
Then, when he realized I was in earnest, he shook his sad white head and asked me, “What do you want to know?”
There was slight tone of submissive impatience riding on his words.
Pointing toward the far horizon I asked”Where does this road go to…the long straight one?”
“I don’t know” said the old man. “As far as I know, no one has ever returned to tell me where it goes.”
I shaded my eyes with my hands and said almost in a whisper “That’s a long road”.
I looked down at my dusty feet, and dragged my toes across an old brick that made up the main road.
“Man, there must be billions of bricks in this road” I said in appreciation of the magnitude of the endeavors and craftsmanship it must have demanded to create such a magnificent highway.
It was as straight as an arrow and as long as the sky.
“The bricks are made of good intentions” the old man said.
“Good Intentions?” I laughed. “Who in the hell makes bricks from good intentions?”
The old man was whittling his stick again.
He said, not looking at me, “Everyone that has gone down that road ahead of you always carries a few of them bricks along” He continued….”Some only take one, some take many….barely able to walk with such a load sometimes, just dragging those bricks behind them”
I thought for a minute….
“That’s a lot of good intentions then….”
The old man nodded.
I continued “The road to hell is paved with good intentions, is that what you’re telling me?”
“That’s just an old saying!” I laughed again
The old man looked at me; his eyes narrow his mouth in a tight line.
“You’re the one on the path” he said with a dour expression.
“But I don’t have any bricks or good intentions, how can I be on the path to hell?”
The man pointed across a barren field at an old factory that was surrounded by piles and stacks of bricks that reached to the sky and said “Go ask them….That’s where the idle hands toil”
I looked at the old, dark factory. There was fire and smoke bellowing from the tall stacks that sprouted from the walls like angry fingers reaching for heaven.
I sat down on the ground.
My strength and resolve failing me.
“I’m on the path to hell” I said to myself.
The old man must have heard this missive because he said “We are all on this path at one time or another”
“I don’t remember coming here before” I said.
“You’ve been here many times and you’ve always come with an arm load of good intentions but never made anything with them.”
I was distraught. I didn’t know what to say or think.
“I don’t wanna go to hell” I whispered.
The old man studied me for a minute, his face shaded by the tree he leaned against.
After a prolonged silence he stood up and walked over to me, reached down and pulled me to my feet.
With a sly toothy grin, the old man said to me “You can always go back”
“What are they gonna do with all those good intentions” I asked, pointing at the old factory.
“Nothing” said the old man.
“Not a damn thing”
I decided right then and there that I would go back and start on my stairway.
And I would build it with charity and the best deeds I could find.