I’m getting lunch out and in walks an older man who kinda looked like an eagle, respectful, but guarded. He’s wearing a Don’t Mess with Texas t-shirt. He places his order. They ask for a name for the order. He grumpily tells them ‘guy in the Texas shirt.’ He then slammed a heavy bag down on the counter so hard it pushed their register back and paid for his food, and got mad when the ice machine was broken for his free cup of water.
He sits down for maybe 3 minutes before he starts pacing. This is a pizza place. It takes up to 15 minutes to make them because they are not those thin rapid fire things. He asks how much a bottled soda costs and grumbles at the answer. Then paces some more.
Finally, he gets his order and complains that he could have gone to Oklahoma in the time it took. Six minutes had passed since his soda tirade.
He sits down to eat. I was gonna buy him a drink since he was trying to eat pizza and wings dry, and I got my food free cause I’m connected on the inside, but Mr. Eagle was glaring at me something fierce when I turned around. I have no idea why. I’d been there long before him, so he couldn’t tell that they know me there.
When I got up to leave, I had to walk by him to throw away my trash. He was reading and highlighting a study Bible, and had several other faith based books out as well. He looked kind of scary, though.
I’m thinking I should just throw my trash away and go. I’m also thinking maybe this surly man just needs someone to treat him better than he treated the employees of this pizza place. I’m thinking of all the nasty attitudes at my own restaurant job.
I’m looking at this man’s worn leather covered Bible and his notebook and his selection of multi colored highlighters. I take in his copy of Jesus Calling. I think of what my good friend Jan would do. This woman is rock solid in a faith that’s been tested way more than it should. I’m 100% convinced her guidance in my life put my own journey to faith on the fast track. Jan would buy the man a drink. Jan would at least have a friendly hello as she walked by the man.
What did I do? Say hi? Throw away my trash and go? Buy the man a soda? Yup. I brought the man a soda. After I dropped all my trash on the floor right in front of his table.
Klutziness for the win! Mr. Eagle started to grumble at me. I wasn’t having any of that. I’d had enough of bad attitudes at work the day before, and there’s just no reason to act so ugly.
With as much grace as I could muster, I picked up my trash and apologized to the man, kind of. I look him in his eyes and say, “I’m so sorry to have interrupted your reading, sir. I hope you learn something that heals that bad attitude of yours in those books you’re reading.”
The man was silent. The whole restaurant was suddenly silent, even though there was only me, the man and the employees in the building. Then the man laughed, a belly deep kind of laugh, and said, “Spunky one, ain’t ya? Just like my granddaughter.”
It wasn’t what I expected. I hear God and Jan cheering me on in my head, plus I love a good story. I walk the rest of the way to the trash can with my trash, toss it, go to the register, buy a Coke and a bottle of water, go back to the man’s table and sit down with the drinks. I give him the Coke and he laughs again.
He closes his Bible and looks me square in the eyes. I’m still a little scared, but hey, God and spunk got me this far, so I look back. He tells me that one year ago today his wife and granddaughter were killed when a drunk driver crossed that yellow line. He tells me that he was sorry he acted so grumpy and that he’d apologize to the restaurant staff too.
I’ve always liked talking to strangers, but this whole exchange took some God fueled nerve, for sure. We talked for a few minutes, and I asked him to show me some verses on forgiveness and went on my way.
Thinking back, it may have been easier to keep quiet and leave, but I’m glad I didn’t. I’m glad God allowed me to use that smart mouth of mine for good this time, and I’m glad I could offer this man a small moment of comfort.
Please remember that no one ever knows what is going on inside. Someone can seem fine, and be completely crushed. Or someone can seem like a total jerk and have a heart of gold.
The weight of grief crushed my new friend. He was struggling on a hard day, and my unique brand of kindness turned things around a bit for him.
In a world where you can be anything, be kind.