Forest and Daniel

Delta Winds cover 2016Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College


Forest and Daniel

Khalid Saleh

Forest Bishop looked at the warped book in his hands and felt puzzled. He wanted to understand the evils surrounding his city, but the book did little to satisfy his curiosity. Mr. Wilson had recommended the book, The Other Side of Detroit. As far as Forest was concerned, there was still only one side of Detroit; the one that was crime-ridden and full of evil people. Mr. Wilson had lived in Detroit his whole life. His mother had died when he was three years old, and his father had died of cancer when he was eighteen. Mr. Wilson understood Forest's concerns, and reflected back to when he was Forest's age-eighteen. He also had a lot of questions understanding the problem of evil in the world, especially in Detroit. He had witnessed Detroit get worse over the decades and wrote a book and gave it for free to anyone wanting to help make a change.

Forest had read many chapters of the book but still couldn't understand the evils that gripped his new hometown. "Change Comes from Within" was the title of one chapter. Forest couldn't grasp how change could be from within when he observed that all crimes were being committed outwardly. Another chapter was titled "Be Patient and Change Will Come." He couldn't understand how patience would bring change, either. Forest wanted immediate change. He felt compelled that change was needed but didn't understand where and how he could implement the changes. There was something obviously wrong with the people of Detroit; their short tempers, lack of hospitality-and unwillingness-to greet each other with warmth and humility. Forest wanted mandatory rules that everyone should follow.

He had once seen a man get angry when an older man dressed in a black suit and brown shoes walked past him. Forest wanted to know what the cause of the man's rage was and why the old man with the suit walked with such a busy demeanor that he didn't even notice the angered man.

Forest paced back and forth and read more chapters from the book. He walked over to the window and reflected on his recent surroundings. With each new day, he began to hate Detroit, with its graffiti-ridden walls and tall skyscrapers. It was a place that encouraged his tendency to feel out of place. He wanted someone to show him-by example-how he could help remedy and understand his new surroundings.

He had arranged a meeting with Mr. Wilson later in the afternoon to ask him why he had recommended a book that further confused his state of mind. Forest was a self-proclaimed do-gooder. He had an upbeat personality and rushed to out-do others in good deeds. He felt that the people of Detroit were less willing to do good deeds. He used to compete with his friend Mark, a school buddy he had known since the second grade. Mark had a fair complexion with freckles over his face and neck. Mark had grown distant from Forest over the years as Mark had moved to Tennessee with his parents, while Forest had moved to Detroit.

Forest had fond memories of when he lived a stone's throw away from Mark in rural Texas. The population was less than a few hundred, and everyone knew each other. He would recall seeing neighbors visit each other at least once a week. Mark and Forest took turns milking the cows, brushing the yards and tidying up the barns. Whenever a neighbor would greet Forest and Mark, Forest would outrun Mark to shake their hand. If a neighbor forgot to greet Forest, Forest would hold a grudge until he got a greeting again. Forest lived by the motto, "Be nice to only those who are nice to you."

Forest further reflected on the days he would walk miles in the brazen sun with his blue torn jeans to herd the cattle and close the gates. He owned three pairs of jeans, and he wore them until they no longer fit.

Forest couldn't understand the hustle and bustle of Detroit. Why was it ridden with so much crime, and why didn't neighbors help each other out? Then he saw something in the distance, or rather someone. It was Mr. Wilson. Forest had so many questions to ask Mr. Wilson. He took out his notebook and had six questions prepared.

Mr. Wilson was a slender man in his eighties with disheveled hair. When he spoke, he would make wheezing sounds that could be mistaken for a cough. It was a condition he had had since childhood. Those closest to him knew about his difficulty speaking. Mr. Wilson glanced over at Forest's notebook and said, "My dear son, I will only answer two of your questions. My chronic condition prevents me from speaking too much. For the rest, I will direct you to Daniel Smith."

Forest looked at his notebook and picked two questions for Mr. Wilson.

"Why don't the people of Detroit appreciate my efforts when I try to help?"

"They do," exclaimed Mr. Wilson. "You just have to be patient."

"Why are the poor people angry at the men in suits?"

"Because the poor people hold the rich in contempt and want what they have," said Mr. Wilson.

"Why are there so much suffering and violence in Detroit?"

Mr. Wilson suggested Forest speak with a friend of his, Daniel Smith. Before Forest left, Mr. Wilson said, "I've arranged for you to meet Daniel tomorrow at Belle Isle Park."

Forest felt disappointed that Mr. Wilson couldn't provide him with insightful answers, but was nevertheless hopeful that Daniel might provide better examples.

Forest arrived at Belle Isle Park early the next day. It was before sunrise. The cobalt sky sparkled with stars, and the pre-dawn quiet was relaxing. Still, Forest was excited and looked forward to the meeting. He glanced into the distance, alternating between sitting on the bench and pacing back and forth. The first rays of the sun crept bright over the horizon, making Forest impatient. Forest looked into the distance again to see the figure of an old man walking towards him. This must be Daniel Smith, he thought. As the man drew closer, Forest could see from the man's dress that he was a gentle academic. A tweed jacket hung slightly loose on his frame, and the man's spectacles reflected the lamplight as they bobbed up and down with his gait.

Forest gulped, suddenly nervous. He glanced over at Daniel as he closed the short distance between them. Daniel was a loving, gentle man with a long gray beard and kind brown eyes. Despite this, his friends saw him as a depressed old man, a risk-taker. Once, he had even brought an old man back from the brink of death. As Forest rose from the bench and Daniel came closer, he could see the smile on his face. Forest believed that no time should be wasted and to make the best of his time with Daniel.

Forest stuck out his hand. "I am here because I want to be educated," Forest said in a hopeful tone. "I need your knowledge," Forest said.

Daniel was still, appraising the younger man in front of him.

Forest looked back, impatiently fingering his notebook. "You are Daniel, aren't you? Teach me what you know," he demanded.

They looked at each other with anxious feelings. Daniel read Forest's face and understood his curiosity and impatience. Daniel realized that Forest might not be ready for his preaching but was willing to teach. Forest looked at Daniel's long gray beard and shiny forehead. He held out his hand again. "Teach me," he whispered gently.

"Hmph," Daniel muttered.

"Please?" begged Forest.

"You don't have the patience," Daniel replied. "How can you have patience about a thing which you know not?"

Forest tried to look confident. His body was firm, solid as a rock. "I will do as you please," Forest proclaimed. "I will be patient."

"You don't have the patience," Daniel replied twice more.

Forest said, "Give me a chance, and I will show you that I am indeed patient."

"Come closer," replied Daniel. "I will give you three chances. Ask me not about anything until I myself make mention to you. If you fail in this regard, we will part ways on the third try."

Forest agreed with the terms and came forward to drink the cup of tea that Daniel had offered him. Forest drank the tea, and it made him feel ready to embark on the adventure with Daniel.

Forest followed Daniel with his eyes and observed his behavior as they walked between trees and across a bridge. They came across two tall trees with two grown men in their thirties having a picnic. Seven bananas, a jar of honey, peanut butter sandwiches, roasted chicken with bread and biscuits were scattered on the floor. Daniel approached the two men and asked if they could each have a banana. The man howled at Daniel and told them to get out of their sight.

Daniel proceeded to a nearby tree that provided them shelter and began to repair a damaged branch. He weaved different branches together providing a solid foundation. He tied them together and further supported it with another branch.

Forest exclaimed, "Why are you repairing a tree branch when the inhabitants that are seeking shelter beneath it have been rude to you?"

"Did I not say to you that you will not have patience with me?" replied Daniel.

"Don't be harsh with me for something I forgot," responded Forest.

They continued to walk and came across a river where a dozen boats were crossing back and forth. The air gave Forest a new sense of confidence as he looked across in all directions anticipating Daniel's next move.

Forest observed a boat in the distance coming in Daniel's direction. The boat had a red exterior built with solid oak and was coated with a yellow interior.

Daniel approached the mother and son riding in the boat and asked if they could be taken across the river. The mother and son agreed. Forest and Daniel climbed in the boat. The boat had enough space to fit three more grown men. It was the nicest boat on the river.

As they were crossing the river, Forest observed Daniel make a small hole in the left corner of the boat prior to arriving on-shore.

Forest's face grew red, and he bellowed with anger, veins protruding forth from his forehead. "Why would you do such a thing to a people that offered us a ride across the river? Surely, they caused you no harm!"

"Did I not tell you that you would not have any patience?" responded Daniel.

Taking a deep breath, Forest replied, "I cannot control my anger when I see wrong being committed. Please give me another chance; you will find me among the patient."

Forest and Daniel continued walking until they reached the tall skyscrapers. The hustle and bustle of the city gave Daniel anxiety and reminded him of the book Mr. Wilson had given him. He also remembered the poor man rebuke the man in the suit for no crime. He saw little interaction amongst the people of the city. Everyone minded their own business; most were either busy talking on their telephones or listening to music through their headphones. Everyone kept to themselves.

Daniel passed by many different homeless men and weaved through buildings until he came to a busy intersection. He approached a man with a shiny suit and polished shoes. He handed the man with the polished shoes a hundred dollar bill.

Upon seeing this Forest grew angry again and asked, "Why did you give a rich man money and ignore the poor people?"

Daniel said, "We must depart now. You did not keep your commitment to me, and lost your patience three times. Before I depart, however, I will explain the meaning of those things that I did."

Forest threw up his hands in frustration, then wheeled on Daniel, still angry. "Fine," he demanded. "Tell me."

"For the first incident, I repaired the tree branch as a new family would arrive soon to have a picnic underneath the same tree, and I feared the tree branch would fall on the smallest of their children."

Forest considered Daniel's actions, and thought to himself, I must be nice to not only those that do good to me, but also that do wrong to me.

"When we took shelter on the boat and crossed the river with the child and his mother, I overheard that two robbers were seizing every good boat in the river, and I made a small hole to discourage the robbers from stealing the boat."

Forest contemplated this action as well. Certain wrong actions may appear outwardly wrong, but are blessings in disguise.

"As for the third incident, I gave the man a hundred dollar bill to remind him of his obligations to feed and help the homeless. He was a wealthy man, and my actions have encouraged him to feed hundreds of homeless men. When the poor people hold the rich in contempt, they are angry because they are not sharing their wealth. Having the wealthy interact with the poor and sharing their wealth will bring better harmony. These are the explanations to those things that you did not have patience."

Forest looked at Daniel. His eyes were wet with tears. He reached out a hand to Daniel.

"Please, Daniel. Give me one more chance. Let me see the world the way you see the world. Let me help my city the way you've helped these people."

Daniel appraised the young man standing before him. A long moment passed before Daniel smiled, and held out his hand to Forest.

"You understand now," Daniel said, placing an arm around Forest's shoulders. "That is good. Be the change that you want to see in the world. Help change come about by actively taking part in it-by influencing it-by being change."

Forest considered that for a moment. A wide grin split his face, and Daniel could see the excitement in his eyes.

"I'm ready. Let's change the world."