Thursday, January 28, 2010

And Don't Come Back

The morning was rushed, as usual. Get the family up, dressed, fed, coffee, lunches, out the door, into the carpool, drive the youngest to preschool. This morning I had to be extra diligent with my time because I had an 8:45 hair appointment.

Arriving at the salon in perfect time, I discover that my hairdresser had to go back to school to get her daughter who became ill in the 15 minutes she would have been at school. I was relieved that I was given a few moments of nothing-to-do. I am not accustoming to having nothing to do, and to my delight I remembered the Pete’s coffee across the street. Perfect!

The line in Pete’s was long, which suited me just fine, I was not in a hurry. The lady in line in front of me caught my immediate attention. Something was not right. One moment she was standing there as calm as the rest of us, and the next she started to fidget and rummage through her pockets in a non-discreet manner; a manner for which I find myself when I wonder if I have my wallet. She may have been homeless. Her clothes were a little tattered, layered heavily, and it was obvious she had not put a brush through her short, greasy, blonde hair.

As the line shortened, the more descriptive became her nervousness. I thought to myself, “Oh no, she can’t find her money.” Instantly, I was aware of her anxiety and was ready to bail her out. I would step in if she needed the help. My own thoughts of pride-preservation took stage. Would she accept my help? Would I offend her? Fighting my sinful nature, I mentally prepared a plan that would hopefully allow her to feel at ease.

As she stepped up to order, her nervousness seemed to dissipate. I did not hear what she ordered, but could tell she was ordering, and she seemed at ease. I was paying as close attention as I could to her body language and thinking of exactly how to handle the situation. Breaking my concentration I hear someone saying, “Miss, may I help you? Miss, may I take your order?” To my surprise they opened a second register! I jumped back into my own world and stepped into the new line; I barked out my order. The barista made some small talk about the cold morning and sunshine and wanted to know if I wanted a muffin; they were fresh, just dropped off. I completely lost my focus on the woman, whom I had just vowed to help, next to me.

Order complete and in perfect pattern of past experience, I step out of line and wait for my latte’. With a moment of awareness, I look around and see the woman, whose anxiety had completely captured my every thought one moment before, leaving through the door. I ran to see if she had her coffee. Both hands were empty. Empty. I felt completely distressed. Should I call out to her? Tell her I would really like to buy her some coffee? I froze. Still. Nothing. I did nothing.

To make matters worse, the barista whom was so pleasant to me just a few moments before said, just loud enough for me to hear, “and don’t come back”. I felt a deep sadness inside my heart. And don’t come back. Even if she could not hear his words, she has probably heard them before. And don't come back. Saddness for all three of us.

God placed me there, gave me the time, opportunity, and resources to bless this woman; this poor desolate woman. She only wanted a cup of coffee on a cold Friday morning. I missed it. For that, I feel deep remorse.

I pray that I get another chance, on another day. I want to feel and see as clearly as I did on this day; use the gifts I’ve been given to bless someone that desperately needs a small token of love, mercy and grace.