Friday, June 9, 2017
The Guy on the Street
Yesterday was a busy day...
for those of you who are moms, you know what the end of the school year is like.
If you're a teacher, too, well then, these days of May and early June feel like the end of a
Fourth of July show.
One after another, bigger and brighter, blasting higher and louder, the days pass by...building and building to the crazy feeling of "OK, that's enough now."
"When will it stop?"
And suddenly it does...life gets quiet.
Lunches aren't being made.
Homework isn't being discussed.
Obligations melt away.
Today, was the last day of high school for Patrick and I volunteered to organize and put on the
I had done it last year and enjoyed seeing these smart, thoughtful teens/adults on the verge of life.
I loved the buzz of both nostalgia and excitement.
So, I ordered the deli sandwiches, filled up the cooler with ice, gather the cookies and grapes and chips and some minimal decorations and got ready.
It was raining in the morning...the scent was lovely...but the vibe was not picnicky.
The message from the school: the picnic must go on.
Rain or shine.
So, I do what I'm super good at...
Long ago, someone gave me this tip and it has really helped:
Act as if, then you will be.
For a new teacher, a new mommy, just whenever you have no clue...
act as if you do.
Soon enough, you will morph into that thing you were hoping to be.
Last Day of School Picnic is ON.
The deli sandwiches were piled high.
The grapes, washed and ready.
Water bottles + grad balloons + random frisbee = legit picnic.
The lunch goes easily and the grateful teens eat their fill and depart
to practice for the graduation ceremony.
What was left was plenty of leftover picnic.
I stared at it and was struck by the gift of food.
The gift of community...
The land of plenty.
So obvious...and so much left over.
I consoled myself with the leftovers thinking I could bring it back to school and the teachers could use it the next day when everyone would be in the post-graduation slump.
Packed up the van and headed out.
I wanted to stop at Starbucks on my way to the high school to get some gift cards.
I walked down the street...rushing because of the left overs...needing to get going...when I hear a request coming near my feet.
I look down and there is a man in his 20's or 30's...
dirty, big bushy hair, slumped shoulders.
He asks, "Do you think you could buy me a lunch?"
[I'd like to stop right here and say that never has someone asked me that. They've asked if I had any extra money...or if I could help them out. But, never has someone asked for a lunch.]
Those syllables and sounds of one human to another instead of irritating me, work their way through my ear, pierce my heart and into a brain that stops my forward movement and shakes me awake.
This guy needs a lunch??
In that movie, Inside Out, I imagine my emotions discussing in real time my situation...it is a split second mash up of Disgust, trying to shout down Joy...Sadness wrestling with Anger...and an
Emergency Fire Alarm going off in there.
WOOOO OOOOO WOOOO OOOOO
I am frozen and I smile so big.
"You need a lunch? Really?"
I look him in the eyes and smile and keep smiling.
I tell him that he is not going to believe this but I just finished up providing a lunch to a bunch of graduating seniors and I have plenty of lunch just for him.
I ask him to walk just a few cars down the street and I open the door to my van and show him a platter of sandwiches just waiting for him...and then he shyly says,
"I have some friends."
"Would they want some lunch too?"
and I hand him the whole platter.
I put a bunch of grapes in a bag...some chips and ice cold waters...
and he just can't believe it.
Neither can I.
Or maybe I can.
It feels so right.
So cosmically perfect that I take a deep breath as I watch him walk away.
Then I spy the cookies - hidden beneath some towels.
He needs some cookies doesn't he?
I quick close up my van and begin jogging toward the guy holding a platter shuffling down the street like a waiter who's been ambushed...big bushy hair, dirty jacket, untied shoes.
I catch up to him with my cookies and it's my turn to be shy.
"Would you want some cookies?"
His hands, already too full, magically maneuver different items to create a spot just for cookies.
It was then that I ask him his name.
He smiles, "Ben."
He offers it like the gift it is.
He smiles again when I tell him my name and for a moment life makes sense.
The weird obstacle course of my days somehow feels in perfect alignment.
How stunning to have too much food.
How understandable to have too little.
How blessed to cross paths in just that moment.
Unloading the food and filling up my heart...
it wasn't really a fair swap.
But the grace goes both ways.
Today, I'm grateful to bushy-haired Ben...who went from stranger to secret friend
in less than five minutes.
Grateful for too much food that found its way into the hands of people who have far too little.
Grateful for the hopeful whisper that started it all.
Grateful for the heart that could hear it.
Think I'll sign up to do that Senior Lunch next year.
Maybe I'll meet Ben again.
Until then, happy summer.
Cue the fireworks.