Have you ever taken a walk in the woods, wondering not only what you might see that you haven't seen before, but if you will come upon an animal unexpectedly and how it will react to the presence of a human? Not always good, I admit, but sometimes you can be fooled and have a most pleasant time. This was the case with the amazing story I am going to tell you.

Being retired frees you up to do things you may not have done before. I bought a small house just outside Leakey, Texas, deep in the Hill Country where I could have peace and solitude, and lots of stars to watch at night. However, my main joy now is to finish a small breakfast, then get a large mug of coffee and walk one of the trails near the new subdivision and the river. This day, however, I went up beside the river for about a mile then turned west and began walking back on a new section of land I had not been on before. This was all part of the state park, and most of it was undeveloped.

As usual, my thoughts were on what my schedule would be for that day: music practice, then read, then check email, plan a lunch…..things that kept me only as busy as I wanted to be.

It was a quite a surprise for me to come upon a large metal object that I spotted through the trees. The woods are not thick around here, and I could see someone next to this object. I detoured and walked closer, knowing that it could not possibly be an airplane or large truck; perhaps it was a helicopter or a hot air balloon that came down?

Walking closer, I realized the man was working on the engine, but this craft was quite unlike anything I had ever seen before: it was about 15 feet high, 20 feet long, and shaped very much like a mobile home, being white in color, and a tripod for landing from a vertical descent. The engine nacelles were located below and behind the small door into the craft. Briefly, the thought flashed through my mind that this was one of those new US Air Force planes in a developmental stage.

"Hello. Having an engine problem?" I opened the encounter with.

The man suddenly whirled around, facing me. He pulled down a visor, but not before I saw his huge eyeballs, like an insect. He was surely six feet six inches in height and probably weighed no more than 150 pounds. His jump suit was silver in color with blue piping. His fingers were long and slender, as if he had Marfan's Syndrome.

For about 3 seconds, we stood there, facing each other. I was beginning to feel uneasy, worrying perhaps that the man did not wish to be seen by anyone. He might possibly be a Russian spy.

Then, the visitor appeared to relax a bit as he replied, "You startled me. Sorry. I thought I was alone out here." His English was accented, but as good as one would hear from any of the locals.

I explained to him that, although he was in an isolated area, it was certainly populated with houses and a nearby town. I wondered why his aviation maps did not show the towns nearby; few as they were, there were much more isolated places to land.

Perhaps a few nosy questions from me might be informative: "What kind of aircraft is this anyway?"

He answered me, "I use it in my work. It seems the air tension regulator is not zeroed and gives false readings."

My response was, "Air tension?"

"Oh, I believe you call it air pressure?"

"You're not from around here, are you?"

He sighed and told me, "No, I'm not. I don't want the craft to be seen by anyone."

At least he was honest. I pushed him a little, "Are you Russian?"

"No, no, I'm not. I'm just not from around here."

"Well, where ya from then?"

He stood straight up, removed the visor and looked at me with grasshopper like protruding eyes.

A nervous sweat and a flight or fight feeling came over me.

He saw my fear and said, "I'm sorry, I don't mean to alarm you. I have to wear these sunglasses on account of my eyes. Normal sunlight will blind me."

Now I'm thinking: is this a special bred human with insect eyes or am I in a bad dream?

"Who are you, or…what are you?"

His shoulders heaved and he looked at me, then he sat down on a tree stump. "Look, I wasn't supposed to make contact with anyone; I'm just an observer. My task is to take notice of the development of your civilization and report back to my captain."

"There's more than one of you?"

"No, just me, covering this sector. But even so, we don't normally mix with your people. We can, and some do; those are advanced observers. I was to simply remain unseen and take note of your technical progress with interplanetary craft."

"Well, mister, you should have gone to Area 51, then; not much around here."

"Area 51, as you call it, is in my sector. I just came here to check my tension sensor. The next thing I'll do is return to the carrier when I leave here."

My god! I was talking with an alien, someone from another planet, no doubt. No, he's not Russian, or British, or Iranian. He's an authentic creature from another place not on earth. I was totally astonished. Also it was a wonder that he seemed so…..so human like.

"That doesn't matter" he continued; "My planet is so far from here that your craft could not get there in one hundred years. And if you want to ask me why I'm telling you this, well…..that's because, no matter who you tell, no one will believe you; they never do. We were told that humans discuss the existence of life visiting from other planets, but we are always made out as scorpion like people who kill and destroy. Please believe me: we are not like that. We are only concerned if you might be a threat to us, and, at your stage of technical development, you aren't, and won't be for many, many years."

"What have you found out?" I asked him.

"It's very sad, to me. We have found humans to be the highest form of life here, yet so many of you work hard to destroy others, you kill for pleasure or to eliminate those you don't like. There is so much greed, thievery, selfishness, inconsiderateness, lying, bullying, dictators that squeeze everything out of their subjects, haters, murderers, slanderers, the list is endless."

"Oh we're not all like that." I informed him.

"There's the only reason to hope, you see. Only those humans who aren't entirely self-centered will make progress towards making this planet a better place. Look, we can give you technology that would propel your planet 500 or 1000 years into the future. We can give you medicines that will cure all known illnesses. We can show your farmers how to grow ten times the food they grow now, and starvation would be only in history books. But if we gave you all those things, the evil ones who steal, kill, lie, cheat, and all those other things would still be around. You can't have progress dropped on you; you must learn, as we did, to develop it."

I was at a loss for words. Then I asked him one more question, "What can I do?"

He closed the engine cover, opened the door to the cockpit, said "Wait a moment" then disappeared inside. He opened the door, handed me a small box, and said, "Here is the information you want. Wait 24 hours before you open it." He then closed the door. The engines began to whine, but not loudly. I backed away, holding the box, and watched the craft ascend, quietly, straight up. It then turned north and flew out of sight.

I looked at the box and returned home.

So much for music practice or doing any reading or writing that day. I was totally consumed by what he had given me. The box was made of a wood like material and was about the size and shape of a cigar box. The lid was held closed with a small latch.

Needless to say, I didn't sleep that night. Nor did I tell anyone about my encounter, for the alien was correct: no one would believe me.

Finally, when I calculated that it had been 24 hours since he placed the box in my possession, I felt it was time to know what he wanted me to know.

I opened the box, afraid some sort of creature might fly out, but the only thing inside was a small white card. I took it out and read what was written on it, fortunately, in English. He had written "To change the world, start with yourself."

The meaning was clear: we can't change others, but if we change ourselves then there is a change in the world.

I still live in Leakey and repeat that walking route every day, but he hasn't come back.