A few days ago I was sitting outside of a coffee shop in Gainesville. After I had been there for a few minutes, a man came and sat down at the table next to me. He was older, his face was worn with what appeared to be a life of hardship. He sat there for a few minutes, staring at his lap, clearly in distress, and then the tears came. He wasn’t sobbing, it was more of a slow cry, like water dripping from the faucet.
In these times I’m always struck by what to do. Do I say something? Do I go and sit next to him? But then fear and rationale come storming in. He probably would rather be left alone ~ He doesn’ want a 24 year old consoling him….It goes on…
So I did nothing, not knowing what my place was in this circumstance.
A few more minutes go by with those same slow, difficult tears.
Then two women come to his side. It seemed like they knew him. They grabbed hold of him, one of them embraced him and told him it would be okay, and this went on for a few more minutes. Then they said “Let’s get you some food” and then they walked away.
I’m not sure what the story was here with this man, but I was struck by the empathy and compassion of these two women. Sometimes when we’re at the bottom, at the end of our rope, what we need is for someone to come alongside us, and just hold on.
It reminded me of the story of Jesus and the leper. There we had a man who no one would interact with or even touch. In fact, they would shout whenever they saw a leper to alert others that this man was not to be dealt with. Then here comes Jesus, who moves towards the man, and grabs hold of his arm in an incredible act of love and connection.
We have such a great opportunity to be light and hope for people, and it doesn’t even take much. All we have to do is show up and be present. We can give and give and give this compassion, the world needs it, even on our streets, even in our office, even outside a coffee shop.
Love isn’t rational, it doesn’t need to be qualified. It just needs to go in and hold on. You don’t even need to say the right thing, just move towards whatever reality that everybody is living in each day.
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