He was walking down Grand. I was on my lunch break. He asked me for a cigarette. I asked him for an interview. He agreed. I agreed. I got the better deal! Full of spirit, full of optimism, full of hope he was. His poverty was apparent in his dress, but in his heart and soul? He was wisdom rich, mansion rich, rich as they come rich!
So what does one ask a complete stranger on a chilly winter day while standing on a sidewalk in the middle of a busy down town area? My mind was blank! Here was my first face-to-face interview opportunity, and I didn't want to fail . . . him. . . you. . . or myself. What should I ask? What could I ask? I didn't want either of us to be uncomfortable. I didn't have my tape recorder so I had to be able to remember his answers. Truthfully, my mind was racing out of control and I felt tongue tied. But! I was pumped up and full of adrenaline. So I let the energy carry me and asked the first thing that came to mind. "How do you see the world 50 years from now."
Without hesitation this environmentalist who was likely "green" before "green" was cool said, "cars will run on water". Water? Really? Do you believe that's actually possible, I asked? "Sure enough," he said. "Won't be long now and you'll be filling your gas tank with nothing more than tap water," he said as he flashed me a toothless smile. Wow! That's what I call thinking outside the box! When I consider how much of the earth IS water and how easily water can be recycled and how heavily humans depend on their vehicles to get them from point A to B, well it just sounds like win-win to me.
Mr. Miller had an optimistic view of many things I learned. He was convinced that the future of education was bright. "What with computers and all . . . everybody who wants education will get it," he said. Guns? "Won't have to worry 'bout 'em 50 years from now, cause there won't be no bullets. Everything will be a laser beam that will just stun ya if ya act out," he told me. About health care? Well, Mr. Miller wasn't quite so optimistic about the current state of affairs, but he had high hopes for the future. "Why," I asked when he told me how much better future health care would be. "Cause Mr. Obama is a good man. He cares about common folk. He's gonna see to it that everybody can get their medication so folks won't be so sick in the future." I smiled. "I like the way you think, Mr. Miller, I truly do," I told him. And with that?
Interview over. Always good to end on a high note whenever possible I think. We spent the next few minutes chit chatting and I learned the coolest thing. Mr. Miller is a collector of cans. He recycles them. See? Told ya he was green! But Mr. Miller is no spring chicken. He's getting up there in years and carrying big awkward bags of cans to the recycling center is a challenge. So he devised a plan that would allow him to haul his cans around town without further injuring his back. He found that he could tie the cans together with a string and drag them down the sidewalk behind him. Clever, huh? So if you're ever in downtown Kansas City and hear rattle, clatter, clickety, clickety, clack, take a look out the window before concluding that Santa has arrived. Cause it might just be Steve Miller and his string of cans (which is currently the length of a half city block he told me with great pride). And if ever it is Mr. Miller? Take a minute to introduce yourself. You might just learn something. I sure did.
Thanks for taking time to stop by the porch today. And for all you environmental, scientist types? How 'bout that water idea? Anyway to make it happen? If so, let's not wait 50 years. Mr. Miller likely doesn't have that long and it would be the ultimate gift if his dream became reality in his lifetime.