I walk into Quinn's Auction Galleries in Falls Church, Va., get pulled as if by magnetic force to a painting for sale in the weekly Wednesday evening auction. The bearded man's eyes reach out to me, imploring me to listen to what he has to say.
I stare at him. The bearded man is in anguish, his light brown eyes nearly bursting with pain. His strong, wrinkled face is consumed by it. Even his bushy white eyebrows bring no levity to his gaze. Tufts of white hair dangle from his head. A long, flowing mustache and beard fall from his face.
He holds some type of turquoise orb in his hands. He clutches it like it's a globe -- a symbol to him of the earth and all mankind. His arms are hidden beneath what looks like a brown tunic. He is a learned man ... a monk or a scholar from the Middle Ages perhaps. He is also a man who is trying desperately to say something.
I strain to listen.
The bearded man wants to hand the responsibility of caring for the world to anyone who will accept it, anyone who can remain sturdy despite an all-too-clear understanding of what's happening to our civilization. He sees me as his last hope. He wants to hand me the globe and to tell me the world is in peril. He conveys that he has done all that he can do and that his time is nearing an end.
"Please," he urges. "Take this burden from me. Save this world and all those who call it home. At least try, as I fear it can not be done."
The bearded man comes up for bidding.
Others are interested in him but perhaps only for the frame. They are not listening to him. I make no pretense of offering subtle waves to stay in the bidding: I hold up my number while the auctioneer rattles off numbers and I make it clear my arm can stay up all night long.
My competitors recognize my intent and stop at just $70. The bearded man comes home with me for $75 -- an unbelievable bargain but one that's not uncommon on Wednesday nights at Quinn's.
Then again, he comes with great responsibility. I will place him in my study and greet him each morning before I head out into the world -- determined to do all I can to avoid letting the bearded man down.