Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)
He’s sitting in his usual spot, on the soft armchair in the back corner of the coffee shop. I’m sitting next to him today. It’s my last day of work and I want to be sure to spend time with this special friend.
He’s drinking a chocolate milkshake and I’m telling him about school and my plans.
“You’re a good girl, Rebecca.” He says that all the time.
“Thanks,” I say with a smile. ” You are pretty nice yourself. I noticed how Bob is sitting with you and Fred and Linda and your whole breakfast group now. That’s nice because I always felt sorry for him eating breakfast all alone.”
“Yeah, well he’s a good guy”
“How did it happen that you became friends?”
“Well, it;s a funny thing.” He pauses a minute to rub at some chocolate milkshake dribbles on his pale yellow polo.
I get up and retrieve a Tide-to-go from my purse. He tries to use it for a few minutes than hands it back with a crooked smile.
“It will come out in the wash”.
“Anyway, about Bob?”
“Yeah. You know, every day when he came in, I’d ask him to join us back here for breakfast. And every day he just kind of shrugged and said no.”
“He seems very timid.”
“One day, Fred just had enough. He got up, took Bob by the arm and said ‘Come on, sit with us for a change’. And Bob did. And he’s been sitting here ever since.”
I smile at the image of Fred’s friendly intervention. “I’m so glad. I can tell Bob likes having new friends.”
“He sits with me now after everyone else is gone and we talk. He won’t leave until I do. You know, he doesn’t have a wife to tell him when to come home.”
He doesn’t answer right away. He’s intently slurping the last drops of his smoothie. I stand up to get back to the dishes in the sink.
“Do you know what he told me, Rebecca?” There’s a new tone in his voice — a quiet thoughtfulness.
“His wife died, just a few months ago. Every morning, before he comes here, he goes to the cemetery. He goes to her grave and he says ‘Why did you leave me?’ That’s what he told me.”
There is another quiet pause. I reach out to touch his hand that’s fumbling in his wallet. ”I’m glad he doesn’t eat breakfast alone anymore.”
His blue eyes soften. He presses a five dollar bill into my hand. “For the smoothie,” he says. “Keep the change. You’re a good girl, Rebecca.”
As I watch him shuffle out the door, I think to myself of how far I am from being truly “good”. So often I noticed Bob, with his bagel and coffee and newspaper. I noticed how he’d brighten up when I remembered his usual order and how he liked to sit where he could watch everyone from the safety of his little table. I could see he was lonely and sad, but I never took the time to find out why. I didn’t stop to talk to him beyond the usual pleasantries.
Two older men showed me kindness in action. How it isn’t enough to just notice a lonely person — sometimes you have to get up and take them by the arm and give them the help they need, but are afraid to ask for. Sometimes you have to sit with someone and be patient before they will open up their heart to you. Often, when you reach out and give yourself in friendship, you will find yourself blessed too.
Isn’t that what Jesus has done for us? He reached out and drew us in when we were secluded in our own death. When we didn’t have a hope in this life, He enveloped us in His saving, adopting, communing love and gave us Himself — and with that one gift, all of life was given meaning.
He fellowship-ed with our sorrows on the Cross. He was patient with the gentle unfolding of our hearts. As we continue to spend time with Him, He continues to ministers to our souls, telling us to “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29)
In a simple way, three older men sharing breakfast in a coffee shop taught me a lesson about friendship, about kindness, and yes, even about the gospel.
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:17,18)
I’m learning that most of the time, there’s more to this life than what meets the eye.