By John Thomas Tuft

The old man sat alone in the station on a bench

I sat down beside him as I awaited my train

And he said very softly as he leaned over to me

“My gift to you means things will never be the same.”

As I turned to look, he gave me a small grin

“In a perfect world we would never think to ask this,”

And he held up an ordinary stone, touched it to his cheek

“My gift to you is this talisman of the question, what if?”

He leaned back and let out a slow sigh

“I have seen parades and I have seen war,

I have been through floods and declarations of peace

I have heard the cries of the people wanting more.”

With one crooked finger he tapped me on the chest

“What if you found someone who loves you as treasure to cherish?”

Then he paused as the next train steamed into the station

“Or are you just passing the time, waiting to perish?”

“What if you could see farther than you believed?

What if trading time for money will never make you a king?

What if standing still sometimes is the answer?

What if all that you are is the best that you can bring?”

Then he kissed the stone and placed it gently in my hand

“My gift to you means things will never be the same.”

And he waved over his shoulder as he continued his journey

While I cradled the gift rock, asking what if I changed?