“Can I get a name for your light-soy-gingerbread-latte-half-shot-of-espresso-with-extra-whip?” The barista’s teeth gleamed unnaturally as she punctuated this question with an ellipses of her eyelashes. Blink. Blink. Blink.
“Jesus,” he said with a shake of his head in a pretend effort to move his shaggy bangs away from his eyes. He pronounced his name like Jesus Our Lord and Savior, not like Jesús Gonzales.
I nudged the young man’s elbow which was attached to a hand ensconced in a fingerless glove which was in turn clutching a skateboard. I said, “Hey. Your birthday is coming up.”
I heard him chuckle, but he didn’t look back at me. What he did do, though, was reach into the sandwich case and grab a cellophane-wrapped sandwich. And he, in one streamlined move, put it in his pocket.
I just witnessed Jesus steal a sandwich from the original Starbucks in Seattle, WA. My eyes crinkled at the irony. Christmas is a tough time of year.
After some lazy Christmas shopping last week with a friend, we found ourselves at a high-end eating establishment near Philadelphia, PA. If you didn’t have a reservation, you were directed to dine at the bar. My friend and I joined an unassuming, modestly dressed young woman there. She was nursing some sort of something on the rocks in a tumbler. Sleek.
She butted into our conversation, “Yeah, I always say you only live once . . . but, of course, there are things like money that have a way of restricting you.”
My friend’s attention became magnetically, and permanently, affixed to the football game airing on the television at the top of the bar. So, I addressed this stranger over his lap, “It’s a good night to get out of the house, right?” “Yes,” she tipped her head toward me and I became aware then that her hair looked unkempt. Very unkempt. And her clothes were certainly not purchased at the mall. At least not in the last two decades. I thought perhaps she was just a haggard mom escaping the mayhem for some peace and quiet.
She affirmed that she had kids at home and was happy to get out for the night. We talked about kids, kids’ teachers, Christmas, working hard, and busy schedules, while she debated about ordering a risotto dish. She decided to go ahead and order it because “you only live once.”
After she finished, she stood up, and in a quick motion, she slipped into her coat and pulled the hood up over her head. She mouthed “bye” to me. And she left. Without paying her bill. On purpose.
Christmas is a tough time of year for some. I’ve seen the motto “Choose Kindness” floating around our society. I’ve seen the bracelets emblazoned with WWJD What Would Jesus Do? And I want to do that. I want to choose kindness and I want to do what Jesus would do. What would Jesus do? How could I have have known the needs of these two people. Their behaviors were conducted in the blink of an eye. How could I have interrupted that sequence of events? Would it have turned Jesus’ life around if I had the presence of mind and the courage to say, “Hey buddy, I’ll pay for your sandwich. Would you like to join me for a bit to talk?”
For now, I have to recognize that these two opportunities have passed; but I hope that if a situation like either of these comes up again, I can think of a way to seize an opportunity to show grace and compassion in the hopes of making a lasting, positive impact on someone’s life.
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink . . .” (Mat 25:35a NIV).