Years ago, I remember having one of those days where nothing felt right. I was working for Coca-Cola stocking shelves at a local grocery store and was just ready to lose my mind over the little things that just weren't working out when I saw a familiar face sitting on a bench outside the store. Naturally I walked over and said hello. He looked up with his bloodshot eyes, smiled and asked how I was doing.
I wasn't used to seeing this man outside of the bar I used to work at, so it was a new experience. I won't say his name for his own privacy, but I will describe him. He was an older man with a shorter grey beard and probably the loneliest eyes a man could have. He smelled like liquor and it looked like he hadn't slept in days, so I asked him what was going on.
He told me he had another hard night and all he could do was sit up in bed hoping the nightmares would stop. He described some things I will not share about his time in the military and explained that there are just some things you can't escape.
I remember asking him if I could help. He just smiled and said, "Only God can help me."
We talked for about 15 minutes about the sacrifices people make and the hardest realities of having to do extreme things. He even said it felt easy at the time. It was just what had to be done, but coming home and learning to live a normal life again was the hardest of all.
His wife left him years ago, but he spoke of her as if it were yesterday. I could tell in his tone that he loved her like nothing else and was happy for her when she left him. He knew what he was struggling with wasn't good for her. He then brought up his children who were now grown. He was so proud of them and he told me they hated him for what he was. "I don't blame them one bit." he said with his head down.
I didn't know what to say to him. I just knew he sacrificed so much as a Marine that I couldn't even start to comprehend. I was hearing the pale reflection of what was going on inside this man. I just wished I could help him some way.
He was one of our favorite customers at the bar. In that setting he was comfortable, but I realized now, that was all a front. He was playing the part to keep from worrying his friends. I caught him in a different setting and for some unknown reason, he opened up to me. All I could do was listen and let him get it all off his chest. To most maybe it was just a drunk old man rambling on, but to me it was a friend living a hell I couldn't even begin to understand.
This whole conversation was maybe 20 minutes before his son pulled up and took him home, but the last thing he said to me was, "Every night, I hold a bottle in one hand and a bible in the other as I pray, Please God don't let me fail tomorrow." I could literally feel my heart beating in my chest as those words lingered in the air.
I went home that night and asked myself what I was so upset about before I talked to him and realized I had everything I needed. My family was safe, and my job was just a job. My problems weren't as big as I believed they were and I was truly blessed.
That night, I sat down with a notepad and wrote out the words to Let Me Not Fail. The whole time hearing the desperation of an old man in the back of my head. This song is probable my favorite song I've ever written.
This is what I signed up for. I love the challenge of bringing a certain emotion and story to the ears of others. I want them to get a sense of my heart pounding as I was just trying to be there for a man in need. I wanted to make them understand the desperation between the lines and to feel the message not directly said, but most of all, I want it to be a lesson in perspective.
Everyone has their hard times, and we all seem to believe our hard time is unique and bigger than everyone else. I think we can all look up and ask for help. I believe we all can look within ourselves and discover blessing where we believed there was heartache. I truly believe we all can look for new ways not to fail tomorrow.