Finding faith in unexpected places

6 Comments

Sometimes faith can be found in places we least expect. A church or place of spirituality seems to make sense, but what about a coffee shop? Before this past week, I might have sided with the thinking that witnessing faith in a coffee shop may seem a bit bizarre or unlikely, but after a few recent encounters, I’m finding the aroma-filled establishments to actually bring out a soft spot in all of us. It’s a person’s willingness to share the said soft spot that sheds the light on faith.

It was a cool morning in October and on this particular day; I was head down at a local coffee shop, eyes glued to the computer screen in front of me. Only peering up every once in a while to check the time, I hardly noticed others sitting around me. I was working to meet a deadline and having a rough morning, questioning my parenting skills after arguing with my toddler about wearing a jacket to daycare.

An elderly lady sat down at the table located next to mine and was quick to strike up a conversation. After complimenting me on my typing skills, she saw a little girl with her father at the counter and began sharing stories with me about her four children – three girls and one boy. There was one story in particular that nudged my faith.

Her youngest boy, 18-months-old at the time and wearing nothing but a diaper, was outside in their family backyard helping his mother in the garden. She ran inside the house for a brief minute to fetch something she had forgotten and just after stepping foot inside the door, heard a noise no mother wants to hear – a child screaming. After rushing back out the door, she found her son next to a beehive, covered in black and yellow bodies. She grabbed the little boy and brushed off the bees, removing the stingers as quickly as possible before taking him inside the house.

“I couldn’t get ahold of his father or any of our neighbors, so I did all that I knew to do and prayed harder than ever before,” she said. “That little boy was so special to us.”

The lady, now probably in her upper eighties, went on to tell me how, after an hour passed since the horrific bee sting incident, her young son did not have one single mark on his body. She also said, to her knowledge, he has never been stung again since that day.

Faith.

That same week, I was engaged in small talk with a young woman who seemed to be having a morning similar to mine a few days before. Her hair was in a pony-tail high on her head, complementing the white collared shirt half-tucked into a pair of wrinkly tan dress pants she was wearing.

After exchanging a friendly greeting, we were both signaled by the barista to step aside while they brewed a new batch of fresh coffee. I asked the woman, about my age, if she was at the coffee shop to work, too. Her posture became more relaxed, eyes looking down at the floor.

“I am going through a rough time right now,” she said. “I was my way to work this morning but decided after crying nearlyhalf of the trip that it would be better for me to take the day for me. I ended up here.”

Showing empathy, I told her we all have bad days and then our drinks were ready.

The woman sat at a table to the left of mine and we each went on to finish what it was we came there to do. I was finishing up a writing piece, she was reading a Bible.

About a half hour later, a middle-aged woman passed by but then began backpedaling, stopping in front of the young woman’s table. I was close enough to hear their exchange.

“I don’t know you or what you are going through, but here is a card I just found that I got at a Bible study. Hopefully it will help and you will get through this,” the older woman said before leaving with her coffee in hand.

As the young woman opened the large piece of paper, I peeked over to read as if trying to cheat during an intense game of Poker.

I’ve never been good at Poker – or cheating for that matter – and this was no different. During my five-second peek show, I was only able to make out the first line on the index card. It read:

He will not allow your foot to slip; your…

Regardless of what the remaining text said, this message was coming at a perfect time and seemed to cause some relief for the young woman. Although we never said another word to each other, her willingness to share a moment of vulnerability with me was important in helping confirm something I know is true, but often forget.

Faith, in various forms, appears when we are willing to look for it – in ourselves and also in each other.

Twitter Thursday – A Virtual Coffee Shop

3 Comments

While I enjoy sharing my  experiences, it’s also interesting to hear coffee shop stories from others.  I recently took a peek into the lives of complete strangers with one simple Twitter search and found multiple intriguing (and sometimes funny!) tweets.

So sit back, relax and enjoy the tweets. Oh, and don’t forget to let me know if you have coffee shop “talk” of your own!

Missing Puzzle Pieces

2 Comments

I recently came across a conversation similar to a puzzle with a few missing pieces. OK, maybe more than a few.

I generally don’t sit near the front of a coffee shop. The seat is convenient, but also comes with the sound of loud machines, a distracting cash register and a breeze every time the entrance door opens.

That is, unless it’s the only open seat in the place.

As I passed by a table of four before sitting down two feet away, something caught  my eye. The folks sitting next to me – two men, two women – were each holding colored notecards. Odd, but not too weird, I thought.

I went on about my business until I noticed two large school photos spread out in the middle of their table. One girl, one boy; both middle school age, flashing fake smiles in front of a dull blue background. What could they be doing? Playing a game with notecards. Yep, that’s it. 

That’s when I saw the writing on each of the notecards. “Food” on one. “Transportation” scribbled on another.

The four middle-aged adults were silent, holding and shuffling cards in their hands as if trying to decide on the next big move. It seems they are “ranking” the cards, placing them in piles based on importance.

“Pets are not a luxury,” one of the men said firmly. “I know it’s not OK, but it’s a reality.”

“They should have to pay something,” one of the women said in response. “Gas, electric, insurance.”

 

At this point, I’m moving further away from the notion this conversation is a game and closer to thinking the decisions being made at the table next to me would make an important impact on the lives of two middle school students. Maybe these individuals are giving away a scholarship, I thought.  

I kept listening.

“Where are we going to place travel soccer?” the second man at the table asked.  “And, what about braces?”

“We need to get her into a three  bedroom, 30-day apartment,” another added.

The conversation quickly turned from monthly expenses to a discussion about societal norms and their relation to the children’s situation — one I didn’t know anything about…. yet.

One of the men locked his shoe around the foot of his chair, sliding it closer to the table.

“It seems mothers have a hard time leaving their children, even if only for a few hours and fathers seem ok with it,” he said. “So, I understand you all have your own stress, but we need to think about the kids.”

Huh?

Just as it seems they are close to wrapping up the conversation and postponing the rest for a later date, they continue chatting, with one women becoming noticeably frustrated and beginning to dominate the conversation.

“He says all the right things,” she said, pointing to the picture of the young boy. “It’s all the stuff he knows you want to hear. I think it’s really a test.”

My “game” theory was gone. Scholarships had clearly been omitted from the realm of possibilities, too. So, what could they be gathering at this coffee shop to discuss?

The frustrated woman continued, sipping coffee between each statement.

“I feel stable in life if I can bring something to the party,” she said. “If he can’t bring something to the party he’s probably feeling used.”

The conversation continued, but  I could not hear the details over the loud coffee grinder. And then, the grinder stopped and the man, still loud as if trying to speak over the machine, said something to make me throw all of previous theories out the window.

“I’m assuming they are sleeping together,” he said.

Who is sleeping together? How does this even remotely relate to any of the details in the conversation previous to the coffee grinder?

I gathered more “pieces” to the puzzle, but they were more ad hoc details than added information to the story:

  • The boy’s father frequently tells him he needs to be more responsible;
  • One of the men at the table recently received a call at 11 p.m. on a Friday and he was concerned about the situation;
  • “She” – whoever that is – is the monkey in the middle; and
  • The boy’s father seems to think it’s OK not to have a relationship with his children as long as they turn out to be good people.

The four adults stood up and exchanged hugs before saying, “Let’s all get together again soon. We need to figure this out and make it happen.”

In my family, it’s an unsaid rule when putting together a puzzle that someone will hide a piece or two in their pocket until the very end. And, I’m beginning to feel that’s what has happened here, too.

Do you have a missing piece?