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.

Have a Little Faith

4 Comments

By now you’ve probably already started playing the tune of “Have a Little Faith” by John Hiatt in your head, if not humming out loud. Good.

This classic song, coupled with Mitch Albom’s book and new movie by the same title, serves as a good reminder of letting go of what we cannot control. What do I mean by this? I’m talking about putting all fears aside. Stepping out of comfort zones. Taking leaps in a new direction. And, just trusting — ourselves and others.

Too often the word “faith” gets associated with religion or belief. While I practice both of these things, I’m learning doing so is only scratching the surface of the true definition of the word. In his book Albom writes “”‘faith is about doing.  You are how you act, not just how you believe.”‘

Touché, my friend.  

Is “faith” — whatever the definition — hard to have? You better believe it. But, faith comes in many forms.

A little girl recently sat near her mother at a coffee shop and was visibly upset. Not upset in the way of throwing a child-like temper tantrum. This fit of expression seemed to have more substance than that. She sat with her mother and older brother in a small coffee shop, located inside a popular grocery store, running her tiny fingers through her unbrushed hair as if trying to avoid the topic of conversation.

The mother and her children were not ordering coffee or truffles. Instead, they bought a loaf of bread in the grocery store and were sharing the snack while waiting for the bank to open on the same side of the store.

“Mommy, is she in heaven now?” she said.

My ears perked up.

“Yes, hunny she has gone to doggy heaven,” her mother answered quietly.

My heart sank. Having been in the shoes of that little girl earlier in my life, I felt her pain. I didn’t know her dog and I didn’t know their story. But, I’m not sure I needed to. (I imagine their story is similar to this one of another little girl coping with the loss of a pet)

The clock struck nine ‘o clock in the morning. The mom and her two children stood up, pushed in their chairs and put the twist tie on the loaf of bread before starting to leave.

“Don’t forget the bread,” the boy said.

“Someone else needs it more than we do,” she said.

Faith.

As the holidays draw near, we are reminded of traditional religion and routine. But, not necessarily of traditional faith.

Following a life-changing move this summer, I will spend Christmas without my family for the first time this year. My husband will be working, and until about two weeks ago, my plan was to watch Christmas movies and listen to Kenny G’s Holiday CD with my 15 month-old daughter in our pajamas.

My daughter and I have received three invitations from families in our new city after just meeting. At first, I felt like they were offering because they felt they had to. Or, it was the “right thing to do”. But after one kind woman extended an invitation an hour after meeting her, I realized they are offering because they want to and might truly enjoy our company.

If this would have happened last year, I probably would have politely declined the offers and stayed home at the risk of feeling uncomfortable. This year, my daughter and I will spend time baking cookies to share with our new friends and celebrate Christmas in a new way. Not uncomfortable,  just different.

I challenge you to step out of your box this season and trust a complete stranger. Have a little faith.

And, watch this video. It’s sure to raise your spirits this holiday season.