From city to city and town to town, you never know who you may meet on the road. That is one of the joys of traveling and that came home to roost this morning for Keith and I.
We stayed overnight in Iowa. We had a great stay (except when our smoke alarm went off a bit past midnight. At the front desk they said it was a prank, who knows). The next morning we were a bit bleary eyed at breakfast, but we were enjoying an exceptionally good meal when a man stopped at our table and asked for money. He said he was stranded and needed money to get a meal and out of town. Keith gave him some cash and he wasn’t pleased at the amount and said, “That won’t buy me a meal here.”
He went on the beg at other tables then headed out. I am sure the management didn’t know he was there, but everyone has their low times so we wanted to help even though he wasn’t thrilled with what he considered our meager contribution. We wondered, who he was, how he ended up here and what his story was. Had he had it all at one time, and what really is the definition of it all? If so, what had happened to make it all slip away?
Then the opposite side of the coin occurred. Our waitress, was so on the ball, she noticed everything. When I asked her if she was student and she said she was. She was a biochemistry major who had just finished a huge research project that opened all kinds of doors for her and she was working an extra shift trying to get her mind off what decisions she needed to make in the near future. She had developed a scientific app that would make a difference down the road. Her future was bright, wide open and filled with choices. She very well could be famous someday and we told her we were glad to meet her before she was.
Two people, one closer to the end of the life scale, the other at the beginning. If we had not asked our young server about herself we would have never learned her story. The man didn’t offer his and it was clear he didn’t want to share, he just needed a fix of some kind to get through the day. That need made him brazen enough to walk into a busy restaurant and go from table to table. The faces we see, the people we walk by all are someone with a future and a past. They may be up or they may be down, it is hard to know and can’t always be read.
On our way home, we listened to a sermon on the radio and the pastor was speaking about loving your neighbor. He was sharing how we are becoming so isolated with our phones and gadgets that we ignore those around us. He said that being a neighbor isn’t just to those that live beside our homes, but those in physical proximity to where we are. Today, that man and the waitress were our neighbors. It was easy to adore the young woman who is so bright and so quick and fun, the man not so much, but I am trying to see past his brush off and pray for him because I can’t make judgements. I don’t know who I was talking to and if I did, I may feel love, now, I just feel compassion and a bit of anger that our gift was found to be unworthy.
Loving our neighbors is sometimes easy, especially for us with nice people around us on all sides, but I am going to try to remember to put my phone down and say hello and connect and break through the isolation barriers just a little more. Truly, you never know just who you are talking to.