the counselor named “loser”

I lived in bowling green
a college town in kentucky
taking classes,
barely passing
and not at all happy
about taking required classes
I did not want to attend

I often walked by
a man who was
(maybe without family)
but peaceful

there was just something
about him
I felt at peace
when I walked pass

His T-shirt had the words
“Slow Down and Talk with Papa”
printed with royal purple
on an unusually white T-shirt
He wore jeans with holes at the knees
scuffed unpolished brown shoes
but it was the T-shirt that made me wonder . . .
why should I slow down
and who was papa?

after two months of
passing the old man
I stopped to stop and talk . . .
since I never saw him eat
I went to a greasy spoon café
and bought him roast beef, gravy,
dressing, corn and a tall glass
of ice tea (with sugar packets on the side)
I took him up on his T-shirt promise to
“slow down and talk with papa”

are you papa
I asked
as I handed him the sack of food and ice tea?

no, I’m not the papa you’re lookin for
my family calls me “the loser”
he replied
they do not understand me
they don’t want anything
to do with me

here is a short version of my story
if you have time to listen . . .
years ago my wife and family tried to have me
committed to a psychiatric hospital

he spoke slowly, sometimes coughing
and turning his head slightly
to hide tears
then he would continue
I used to be a well known doctor
but hated life so much I stood
on the Barren River Bridge
with plans to jump off
then this happened . . .
a man running on the bridge
stopped and said man,
whatever you are thinking about doing
slow down and talk with papa first
and see what he tells you to do
I asked the runner, papa who?
the runner said some
call him Jesus
I haven’t seen the runner
since that day and I once
knew all the people in town
never saw him before
and never saw him since
never asked where he was from
that’s sorta strange
how that happened, he said

did talking with the runner
help? I asked
I was tired of my old life
I decided then
to quit practicing medicine
I gave away my medical practice
to a young doctor who wanted his own
private practice but never was able
to afford it

my wife and family tried to have me
committed to a psychiatric hospital
(they took me to Our Lady of Peace Hospital
in Louisville)
but the psychiatrist who evaluated me
was a spiritual man
told my family to let do
what I wanted

that was about 40 years ago
I’ve been counseling ever since
I always work outside with
the birds singing overhead

I asked about his
counseling career . . .
it’s here my friend
people stop to talk with papa
thinking I am papa
you see, so many people
are hurting inside
I have this grocery sack filled with
handwritten notes on how my papa or Jesus
has helped me one day at a time
and how they can know my papa too

after an hour I stood up to leave
I asked if I could come back
he smiled, laughed
and said, anytime, I’ve been here
40 years in this college town
he reached into his grocery sack
and pulled out a folded piece of paper with
handwritten notes
he said he always give people
a note upon leaving a “counseling session”

I went to my small apartment
unfolded the sheet of paper
and read it

as I read each handwritten word
I experienced waves of peace and joy
time stood still
a peaceful presence filled the rooms
and finally
I asked papa Jesus
to talk with me

that was the day
my life

Published by Jim Wortham

As a teen, wanted to live from writing poetry. Wrote several books, selling nationally. Hung out with readers throughout the United States. My writing has been on back burner. Now dusting off my desk and have my pen in hand. Hope you enjoy some of what I write.

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