Like clockwork, the grumpy old man came into the small cafe where I worked. Every morning, he lingered at the end of the U-shaped bar that surrounded the serving area where we prepared the customers' orders.
Outside the bar were a few tables for customers who wanted to visit with friends. This regular visitor didn't have any friends not that I ever saw, anyway. He sat alone with his head down, hunched over his coffee cup.
He grunted or ignored me when I said good morning. His tips were a meager dime. A plain doughnut and a cup of coffee with one fill-up were his regular fare. I remember him as if it were yesterday.
He was my challenge to love, a new kind of love that I was learning about in the Bible and from my study of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy.
I was learning that to love is a natural expression of our nature as children of God. And that the expression of love is not dependent upon exterior causes but upon our relation to God, who is Love itself.
My growing understanding of love included the right to its expression. It could not be dimmed, discouraged, or snuffed out by someone's indifference or unkindness. I felt determined that I would act toward this man as though he loved me. He had the same God that I did, so he was really my brother, and he loved me, whether he knew it and showed it or not. The God who had given me love to express was also giving this man love to express. This was the truth, and I would not be persuaded to think or act otherwise.
I was the junior waitress. In the pecking order of things, I was assigned the least desirable patrons. His daily visits became my responsibility. Day after day, I loved him with kind good mornings and special attention to his needs. I refused to be impressed when he didn't return my kindness. I just kept thinking of him as my loving brother and acting toward him with love. This went on for a number of weeks.
One day, he didn't come in. Again the next day, he didn't show up. This went on for a month or more. I actually missed him.
Then, one Saturday morning, a friend and I went out to an expensive restaurant and treated ourselves to a fancy breakfast. When we asked for the bill, the waitress said that the gentleman over there (she pointed to a table at the far end of the restaurant) had already paid for it. We walked to the back of the room to thank whoever had paid, and there sat the same man alone, hunched over his meal. When I tried to thank him, he simply put his arm up in the air and waived me off, with a slight smile on his face.
I wanted to throw my arms around him and give him a big hug, but I couldn't get that close to him. He didn't want that. He had been given what he wanted. He had felt love, and the wave of his arm was enough for me.
I later learned from one of the other waitresses that this man had been very ill and had gone to the hospital during the time that he had been absent from our cafe. He was recovering when I had seen him at the restaurant.
I found another job before his visits to the cafe started up again. I was told that he asked about me when he returned. I never saw him again and didn't ever know his name. But he has remained a friend in my heart for many years. He taught me a precious lesson of love.
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let
him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth
a cheerful giver. And God is able
to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.
II Corinthians 9:7, 8