Jul 24, 2006

unhappy soul

Spending time in a coffee shop sipping their horrendously foul brew is not always a complete waste of time. Many people you never see anywhere else are killing a little time, and looking for conversation.

A gentleman who comes in occasionally is generally ignored by the patrons, and even the waitresses spend little time with him; hello ... your order please ... and the usual hope-you-leave-a-tip smile. He is a rather small man in his mid-thirties with long stringy brown hair way past his shoulders, slightly paunchy, heavily scarred face, and a right eye that seems to meander without any specific purpose. He usually sits across from me at the counter (15-20' ft. away,) but one morning he plopped down on a stool beside me without uttering a word, or looking my direction.

I decided to make an effort to engage him in conversation:

"Hello, how are you today?"

No response. Okay, perhaps he didn't hear me, lets try again;

"Hello, hows things going?" (spoke with a little more gusto.)

This time he mumbled something; have no idea what. Okay, were gaining, lets try once more;

"Nice day huh?"

His first decipherable words were softly whispered;

"Not bad!"

Within minutes he was conversing quite well, and I discovered he had been in a car accident when he was only seventeen years old that put him in a coma for two years. He said it was his fault; he had been drinking. As a result of the accident the right side of his face is completely paralyzed (reason enough for a meandering eye.) He still doesn't say much to anyone, but he will nod in my direction when he's in the cafe, and occasionally speak to me.

Bad choices we make, even as teenagers, can often haunt us throughout our remaining days. This man knows other people ignore him because of his appearance, so he responds with silence. Over time perhaps God can work through me (or some other person) in such a way that this man will understand that Jesus died for him, God loves him, and his future can be unimaginably wonderful.

18 comments:

Laymond said...

I know we can never deserve the full grace of God,as he showed us when he sent his only son to die for our sins. But I do believe some deserve better than they get from mankind,especially from some Christians.

jettybetty said...

Sounds like you have a coffee shop ministry there--that is if you can tolerate the *foul brew*!

Milly said...

Praying for you both.

It's interesting I was talking with a very young co-worker about another’s alternate life style. When asked she told the woman that she was a Christian and that she felt that she was sinning and that the way she lives is wrong. As we spoke of sin I noticed the other women not joining in but listening a customer joined our conversation he and his son had been talking of sin. Now I feel that our discussion hurt the woman and I want to talk to her. I want her to feel that she can ask me anything and tell me anything. We have to show Christian love to everyone.

One of my customers now calls me sister. I so love that. :-}

Good job Larry, keep reaching out brother.

Larry said...

Laymond...
Surely we're all guilty, or have been guilty, of making split decisions about a person based on appearance, then find out later we were way off base. Unfortunately I have been guilty more than once...

Larry said...

JB...
Truck stop ministries are popular along our freeways. Perhaps coffee shop ministries will be the next big thing...except for the foul brew!

Larry said...

Milly...
In discussing Jesus with others, and responding to those asking questions about problems in their lives, it's always easy to say too much, or too little...then when we're alone we wonder if our words were what the person needed, etc.

"Now I feel that our discussion hurt the woman..."

Occasionally a discussion will drift into something not intended when other people join in. I agree, it would be a good idea to talk to her if you have any doubts at all.

Danny Kaye said...

Now that is a heart-warming story! I wonder how long it had been since someone initiated a conversation with that man. Perhaps years? Maybe even a decade?

I am confident that you touched that man's innermost workings and gave him hope that not all mankind sees him as he sees himself in the mirror.

Perhaps you could make a point to go to the coffee shop a bit later, like after he is already there, and deliberately sit next to him. What a signal that would send:
"A friend is sitting next to me."

That can only be good.

Larry said...

Jeff...
It's been some time since He's showed up at the cafe, but I do plan to sit next to him the next time he comes in.

My hope is that others will see that he is just as friendly as any of them; just a little different and quieter.

JD said...

Awesome... it's hard for me to climb out of my shell and engage others... me - the chatterbox... how you must have blessed this man's day...amen!

Larry said...

JD...
Like you I fit well in a shell!

Talking one-on-one doesn't really bother me, but once someone tries to push me in front of a bunch of people to speak, they should definitely be prepared for losing not only the battle, but the whole war. :)

Jerald said...

It is most interesting to me the difficulty with which you wresteld to pull this man from his shell.

Oh what pains must be circulating in his soul.

God Speed in continuing to develop a relationship with him such that God might use you to speak to him.

Stoned-Campbell Disciple said...

Thursdays are my official coffee shop day. I have become a fan of Alterra Coffee. They have a cool hang out and I do in fact meet lots of interesting people. And some great spiritual conversation.

Shalom,
Bobby Valentine
Stoned-Cambpell Disciple

Larry said...

Jerald...
Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

Actually once this man decided to talk he came out of his shell in a hurry. I think he just doesn't feel comfortable with people until he knows them a little better.

Larry said...

Bobby...
Where I live finding a place to have Alterra Coffee is impossible, so we have to drink some really rank stuff.

My coffee shop is near the dam at Lake Isabella, hence the name; Dam Corner Cafe.

When I first moved here a member of the church giving me directions to the church building said it was easy to find; just three blocks East of the Dam Corner Cafe....I thought he was being a little vulgar in speech at the time. :)

Milly said...

HEH, When I first started training dogs I thought they were a bit vulgar. Then my brain cells kicked in. Oh a female dog is a . . .

Jim Martin said...

I am glad to read this story. It reminds me not to pigeon-hole people when I really do not know them. It is so easy to form and opinion of someone and even evaluate them without knowing anything about them.

Thanks,

Larry said...

Jim...
Thanks for coming by and leaving a comment.

It's too easy to form instant evaluations on those we hardly know. More than once my foolhardy quick decisions about a person based on appearance have been wrong, and the person turned out to be a real jewel.

timeless said...

This is a really "late" comment that came to me after re-reading your entry. Reaching out and touching the hearts of the disinfranchised can happen just about anywhere. Not long ago, I came in contact with an ordinary-looking woman at work in the operating room. As I do with all my patients, I tried to ease her fears, make her comfortable with warm blankets...you know, the usual "nurse" stuff...I saw her later in the recovery room, and she was in tears. I stopped to ask why she was crying, and her response was, "I had almost forgotten how GOOD it felt to be treated like a human being!" I understood why...she was "accompanied" by two armed guards from a local women's prison. Her expression came from her heart, and it moved ME to tears, because I realized that God had given ME the opportunity to do something good, and that I should never take what I DO in my profession for granted. God gives me many opportunities to serve Him, and it always reminds me that my job can be MORE than a "job"...it can be a mission as well.