Now Is Better than Then


I’ve mentioned periodically that I like to walk at the mall. With my wife three nights a week and on Saturday and by myself an additional three or four times a week. It’s not only great exercise, it’s also become my favorite prayer time.

I pray for my fellow walkers, even though I don’t really know more than a couple of them–and those not well. But that’s changing.

The past few days I’ve become particularly fond of an older black gentleman who walks with a couple of other fellows. He’s always stuck out in my mind, however, because he carries an adjustable cane, which I’ve never seen him use.

But he recently expressed an interest in my collapsible trekking pole. I told him I’d bought it for $20 at the Bass Pro store that’s less than five miles from the mall, and he planned to have his son drive him there to get one. (He lives near the mall and takes back roads to get there to avoid heavy traffic, which is probably why he chose not to drive to Bass Pro himself.)

And–lo and behold!–he showed up to walk this morning (I’m writing this on the Wednesday before you see it) with a trekking pole just like mine.

He and a friend had just completed their walk at the same time I did, and I asked if I could take their picture, which they willingly agreed to and jokingly asked whether I was going to put it on Facebook. At the time I thought I would, but then I decided to write about today’s events and include the picture here.


Before we were done, two other walkers joined us–one black, one white. I took another picture–how I wish I could’ve done a selfie of the five of us–and we all sat down together. I learned that my trekking pole friend is Chris and the fellow who’s been with him was Al. The two additional fellows were Sam and Jerry.

We had a great time talking, and I explained that I would love to walk with them, but because of my praying while walking–I told them I pray for them as well as my other co-walkers–I preferred to walk alone. They not only understood, but appreciated what I’d told them.

While nobody said anything specifically about being a Christian (or not), I felt very much at home in this little group.

So why did I title this post “Now Is Better than Then”?

As much as I hate to think about it or even admit it, if this had occurred sixty or seventy years ago–perhaps less– well, it probably wouldn’t have happened. Black people walking at the same place as white people? Preposterous. And speaking enthusiastically to one another as equals as we passed each other? Not likely.

And sitting down together in a time of true fellowship, two older white guys and three older black fellows? It wouldn’t have happened in those (questionably) “good old days,” would it?

I have no memory of those days, and I’m not making any claims that racial equality has progressed as far as it needs to, but I am sincerely thankful it’s gotten far enough for me to make friends, even in such a limited way, with three fine black gentlemen who share the same interest in walking and talking.

I usually try to ask a pertinent question to get you to leave a comment, but I’m fresh out of pertinent. So instead I’ll just ask, “What do you think? How about leaving a comment?”


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Best regards,

Not Just a Fancy Purple Shirt

HaroldPener   DSC_8015   DSC_8017

(click on thumbnails above to see larger images)

What do you think of my purple shirt? If you like it, join the crowd. I haven’t owned a piece of clothing that has drawn so many positive comments since I dressed in the style of the 1960s and early 1970s and looked at least a tad like a hippie.

This shirt has a story, and it means more to me than just being the most expensive shirt I’ve ever owned. (I still can’t believe I actually paid $40 for it, though.)

My wife and I walk two miles together four days a week, and I walk by myself one additional day when she’s not available. One of my advantages in being retired is I can walk any time.

We prefer walking in the neighborhood because we can give our miniature dachshund a good workout. Those short little legs seem to do well with the two times around the loop that adds up to two miles.

But the weather doesn’t always cooperate. Sometimes it’s too hot or too cold, windy, rainy, or snowy. Other times we just need a change of scenery. So it’s off to the local mall—one mile up the road.

We see quite a variety of stores in our trek around the mall, but one that invariably catches my attention is the Harold Pener Man of Fashion store. If you’re not familiar with it, Man of Fashion is a predominantly black (African/American if you prefer) store. Not only do they have the most interesting clothes on display in the window, they use a small kiosk that’s out in the center of that part of the mall to model additional menswear.

Many months ago I noticed the purple shirt in the window. I made the mistake of falling in love with it. I’d been inside Harold Pener a time or two, so I knew it wouldn’t be cheap.

Nonetheless, after passing it several more times that week and drooling a little more each time, I mentioned it to my wife.

You need to keep one thing in mind. Kathleen is excellent at sticking to the budget we agreed to when we got married. Neither of us believes in buying things we don’t need, but she’s also sometimes too good at asking, “Do you really need that?”

That doesn’t mean she likes to torture me, though, and she’s quite unselfish.

So the next time she walked the mall with me, I pointed the purple shirt out, and she offered to go inside and take a closer look. So far, so good. Better than I’d expected, in fact.

Whoops! They didn’t have that shirt in my size. Not the purple one. They did have the same pattern in three or four other colors, several of which were almost good enough. But almost doesn’t cut it. Not at $40.

While we were looking at the other colors, our enterprising salesperson decided to check the shirt in the window. YES! My size. Medium.

When we reached the register, I smiled and said, “Not right for you folks to have all the good fashion.” While I wouldn’t recommend just any white person saying that, I do get away with a few things at sixty-seven I wouldn’t even have thought to do when I was younger.

Anyhow, we all laughed at my comment, and we had a good conversation.

You know, I”ll bet a number of white men would feel funny going into Harold Pener, but not me. I was a (potentially) paying customer, not simply a fellow of a different race.

I really appreciate the fact I felt so comfortable there, and I always wave when I pass by, whether I see anyone looking or not. I still see things I like in the window, but we can’t afford to have me stray from the budget that way very often.

So I view my purple shirt not just as a fine, favorite piece of clothing, but as a symbol of good race relations.


Please leave a comment if something in this post has spoken to you. I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I use “As I Come Singing”check it out here–to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Check here to see the list.

Best regards,