Starbucks and Life Lessons
I’m the one that avoids homelessness as much as possible. When I drive up to an intersection where a man or woman holds a sign and the light turns red, I turn up the radio and look out the opposite window to avoid eye contact. I’m the one that giggled nervously when we were approached on the 16th Street Mall. I’m the one that because I don’t know how to respond, I just don’t respond at all. And I’m ashamed of it.
Tonight, Hudson and I had a coffee/hot chocolate date at Starbucks. It was one of those coffee shops that sits adjacent to a grocery store. I noticed the gentlemen sitting at the corner table as soon as we walked inside. I didn’t think anything of them as we made our way to the register and placed our order. I didn’t give them a second thought as I swiped my card and we took our treats to the table across from theirs. My mind was on the quality time I was about to have with Hudson, and the brownie-peppermint cake pop I was going to devour.
And then I noticed the men noticing us and I started squirming in my seat. Each had a cup of coffee in their hand, a newspaper laid out on the table in front of them. It was obvious they were dragging out their time in the store, sipping their coffee as slowly as possible to prolong their time in the warmth. I could feel the heat rush up the back of my neck because I knew. I KNEW. I was being given a choice and it meant going way out of my comfort zone, but I didn’t want to because I like my comfort zone. Its safe there.
I told Hudson to finish his hot chocolate, and when he was done, I tucked his hand in mine and we walked over to the two men.
“Hey pretty lady!” the first man said to me. He smiled a toothless smile and he asked Hudson for his name. We chatted for a bit, and then I took a deep breath.
“Are you hungry?” I asked. “We have to grab a few things for our dinner, and I was wondering if we could grab something for you too.” Hudson twisted his hand in mine, and I realized I’d been holding it a little too tightly. I looked between the two men, hoping they understood my intention was honorable, that I meant no disrespect, and hoping they’d say yes.
The older man looked down at the table, then locked eyes with mine. “I’m not asking for that, ma’am. I’m not asking.” I touched him on the shoulder, “I know, I know. I’m offering. In the spirit of Christmas, I’d like to buy you dinner.”
They exchanged a look, smiled at us, and then nodded their heads in agreement. I assured them that we’d be right back, then Hudson and I headed into the grocery store. The heaviness in my heart grew as we selected chicken and some side dishes; the lump in my throat got bigger as Hudson decided we needed to get them drinks too, and then insisted on carrying the Gatorade himself. I teared up as I paid the cashier and silently prayed. “Father. Please. If ever one of my children is placed in their position, please take care of them.”
We delivered the food to the table, complete with plates and eating utensils. We shook hands and exchanged names. It was when the older man wouldn’t let go of my hand that I realized that sometimes, its more than physical needs that need to be met. Its human touch, it’s the dignity of being acknowledged, it’s knowing that someone cares, even if for just a moment.
We said our goodbyes and we wished each other a Merry Christmas. When we walked back to our car, hand in hand, Hudson turned to me. “Mama, we did a good thing, didn’t we? I think God is happy right now.” And the tears I’d been holding back, spilled over.
There is much I don’t do right in this life. I make mistakes and take wrong turns. I turn away, more often than I turn towards, and yes, tonight I made the right decision. But what about all the other times I pretend to not see them or don’t want to be bothered? What about those times that I feel God pulling at my heart but its too uncomfortable to obey? I thought about the nice warm house that was waiting for us, the fridge and cupboards that were full of food. I thought about the gifts sitting under the tree and the love of family that I take too often for granted. I became all too aware of our blessings, uncomfortably so…
“Mama?” came the voice from the backseat. “I think we should do that more often.” Oh yeah, sometimes the innocence of children and their convictions can humble me to my very core. It was in that moment that I realized the lesson I’d hoped would touch Hudson, touched me instead.
“I think that’s a great idea, Buddy. Let’s keep our eyes open for moments like that again.”
Starbucks and life lessons. Who knew?