Originally posted 5/12/2008:
Back when I was in high school, I did some volunteer work for the Raleigh Court Public Library. While I was there working in the afternoons, I came in contact with a man who would come to be known as The Whistler. If you're from Roanoke and have lived in the Raleigh Court/Grandin Road area of the city, you may, in fact, know The Whistler.
Upon first impression, you may just see a somewhat disheveled elderly gentleman. One you may choose to ignore. One you may give sideways glances to, just to make sure he's staying on his side of the room. One you might think was a little odd. And I'll admit, for a long time, whenever I saw him, that was how I felt.
I never had a conversation with the man. I never introduced myself or even let him know I knew he was there. In fact, the most contact I personally had with him was a nod or a hello while I was at the library. Often he'd come in and read the daily newspaper, and then he'd walk back to his home, whistling all the way.
I think if I had taken the time to get to know this man, I would have discovered a kind man who probably just kept to himself for one reason or another. A story I heard from a teacher illustrates a bit of what may have been under the unkempt surface. This teacher had a roommate that was training for a 10k run and did so by running through The Whistler's neighborhood. Day after day the roommate would run by The Whistler's house while the man worked in his yard. One day, when The Whistler saw the roommate coming down the road, he began whistling Chariots of Fire. Maybe that was his way of encouraging the roommate without really saying anything.
So just remember when you pass one of those creepy houses in the neighborhood, think about who lives there. Everyone has their reasons for being the people they are. There may be times when it appears they're not reaching out to us, but maybe they are. Or maybe they're just waiting for one of us to do the reaching.