Day: 235 , Items Purchased: 0, Temptation Radar:0
Wednesday, August 24 2011
“Pikes Place, Cream & 2 Splenda, please.”
“Pikes Place. Cream. Two Splenda…that’s all?”
I mean, what else is there?, I thought.
“Yea. Thank you.”
A routine start to my day, I grabbed my cup of java from an overly friendly barista and headed toward the condiment bar. I turned around to find a tall, black, young man sitting in a wheel chair also hoping to doctor his drink a bit. I stood next to him,
“Good Morning. I see we both know how to start day off right!,” I said.
“Yes. Hey, would you get 4 of those blue packets and put em’ in my drink?”
A bit startled by such an uncustomary request and probably looking a little stunned, I grinned and reached for the Equal.
“Sure. 4 packs.?”
I took the Venti iced coffee from his hands, removed the lid and began to edit his drink. He continued on…
“How long you been married?”
“How do you know when you’re in love? I mean… how do you know when you’ve found the right person?”
Feeling equal parts uncomfortable and compassionate, and guessing he must have seen my wedding ring, I entertained his question for what seemed like a long time. Really, it was only a moment. My intrigue with the topic he chose for discussion, coupled with the novelty of his trust toward a complete stranger and my willingness to fumble around with somebody else’s coffee drink gave me more reason for pause than the complexity of his question.
“Well, I don’t know. I guess you meet somebody, there’s a connection and you both determine that you can’t live without each other.”
That’s how it was for me with my husband. I didn’t go into details with him, but I remembered after a broken engagement with Steve, I felt the most gut-wrenching pain of my life. I allowed fear of the future get the best of me, and I’d made a mistake. It wasn’t long before I realized, I didn’t want to be with anybody else…I couldn’t. The thought of living without him was unbearable. That’s when I knew.
“I’m 33, and I just haven’t found the right person. I’ve dated nice people who I like a lot. But, just not the right one.”
“Aw, she’s out there.”
His words were long and I could tell he had difficulty, technically, constructing the phrases, yet his thoughts so clear and language articulate. I wondered how he ended up in this wheel chair. It seemed as though maybe he had an accident that caused some paralysis. I stirred the coffee, spilling a little, fastened the lid and handed it to him.
“OH! You made a mess. Look at you!”, he said jokingly, as he sips the drink. “Oh, it’s Superb!” I chuckled because I’m beginning to realize that this guy has a quirky sense of humor and it’s kind of charming. Maybe he thought I was laughing at his word choice because he said “What??? that’s a big word, huh? You surprised I used a big word? How about EXTRAORDINARY or MAGNIFICENT?” As I wipe the up the mess I’d made, I asked him,
“What’s your name?”
“Nice to meet you Lonnie.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that a few people were staring at us. Perhaps they were surprised that 2 complete, and glaringly different strangers could strike up a meaningful conversation in the middle of the coffee bar. Or, maybe they just wanted us to move away from the half & half. Who knows? Lonnie went on to ask me what I did for a living, and we exchanged a few other pleasantries. Because I don’t believe in accidental encounters, and from the depths of my soul, I believe verything has purpose and meaning….even the little stuff, I’m always looking for the small seed in a bed of flowers. I finally worked up the courage to ask the question,
“So, what’s your story, Lonnie?”
He looked up at me with a mischevious grin and took a sip of his coffee, as if he knew what I really wanted to say was, what happened to you?
“You seen that movie Homeless to Harvard?”
Puzzled, I shook my head. No, I hadn’t seen it and how is that the answer to my question? Did he not hear me?
“Oh, man. That’s a good movie. You gotta see it. Homeless to Harvard. It’s about this girl whose family was into drugs…bad. But she was really smart. Very smart. Her parents died and she was homeless. But, she worked hard and went to Harvard, wrote a book, made all this money. Amazing.”
“But you know what she said?”
“She’d give it all back. She had all this knowledge. So smart. So Successful. But, she’d give it all back just to have her family. She would trade it all to have her parents.”
With that, he reversed his wheel chair and headed it toward the door. I followed him, swinging it open.
“Oh! You opened the door for me. Thanks. usually, people just slam it in my face. Homeless to Harvard. You remember that movie, ok?”
That was it. He drove that chair out the door and around the corner. I went to my car. When I pulled around the parking lot, he was gone. No trace. Completely dumbfounded by such an interesting exchange, I decided to web search the movie. It was just as he described: a remarkable story of overcoming obstacles and achieving great success. But still, the unquenchable longing for love and family trumped it all for the movie’s young heroine. Lonnie never told me his story. Or, maybe he did, in a a round about way. I imagined that Lonnie would trade it all back just to be out of that chair, but yet I saw a overcomer in him too. It was a bizarre moment. Only minutes prior to the our chance meeting, I’d been on my commute thinking about the impact of loving people and the importance of serving others. I said a simple little prayer asking that God would expand my influence and capacity to love through service. I think so many times we get hung up in feeling like that means join a philanthropic organization or write a big check. Those things are great, necessary even, but I believe it’s far simpler and can be applied much more routinely than organized charity allows. The gift of selflessness and compassion can be seen daily through a variety of venues. It’s in the 2 am feeding of your newborn, the ride you gave your neighbor to work, the door you held for the handicap, the preference you gave to a tired mom standing behind you with three kids fighting her way through the checkout line. Love and service can be demonstrated with a listening ear, through that 16th load of laundry just to get to your kid’s favorite shirt, 5 minutes to listen to a stranger at the coffee shop. There is always opportunity. Will we slow down to notice it? Will we respond? Make your mark, like only you can. Give your supply of love, that only you can give. Don’t let a day go by void of loving service.
Today, four Equals and a coffee stir unlocked compassion in my heart, and Lonnie sparked inspiration, confirming a precious truth I’m only beginning to understand.
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