On a regular outing for coffee, I ended up getting unexpectedly blessed when I tried to bless someone else.
I had thirty minutes to myself before picking up the kids, and I was determined to use it productively: get my coffee, sit down, scroll through Instagram, and spend the last few minutes staring out into space.
Right outside Starbucks was a skinny man with grey hair wearing a faded red polo shirt and cargo pants. He made abrupt hand gestures talking to himself although it sounded like it was a conversation with another person.
In the span of less than thirty seconds, this “pacing” guy quickly shuffled up to a middle-aged patron who was busily typing away on his computer. Before he could even finish asking for spare change, he got turned down immediately with a stare and curt response. He apologized and walked away like he was used to this kind of interaction.
It’s difficult to articulate but I felt like God was prompting me to ask this guy if he wanted coffee. God didn’t ask me to make an earth-shattering move, just a small gesture to help someone out.
I learned how special a good cup of coffee can be during hospital stays with Ellis. She usually won’t let me out of her sight for more than five minutes, so I sit bedside dreaming about how lovely the first sip of iced coffee with a splash of soy milk will be and comfort food instead of Saltines and peanut butter.
So many times, my gracious friends delivered coffee (not from the hospital), treats, food, texts, and their company to ease my stress. Chris also delivered coffee, but he had quite a disastrous experience when he accidentally dropped and spilled a venti-sized coffee in the hospital lobby. I was still grateful he tried but grumpy.
Those memories taight me how a cup of coffee can turn someone’s day around and uplift a person’s discouraged heart.
The guy smiled and said he would like a large coffee. Then, as I was ordering our drinks, his gaze turned to the refrigerated food section looking intently at the menu options as he pointed from one item to the other. I had an inner conflict that split second: do I ask him if he wants something to eat?; isn’t coffee enough?; and emergency advice-asking prayer…God, what do I do? Please give me a generous heart.
I felt disappointed in myself for questioning so much over this issue when it was clear I should get him something to eat.
“Come on, you can do this with a generous heart and help this guy out” I thought. Countless times people blessed me and my family extravagantly when we were in survival mode with Ellis’ constant illnesses. Sometimes those friends told me that God pressed on their hearts to reach out to me, and those were the exact time when I needed help and encouragement. I’m so thankful they acted upon it.
I resolved to buy this guy’s lunch. I asked, “Would you like something to eat too?” He said, “yea? Thanks” and chose a few items. I sighed silently to myself thinking this would be an expensive coffee outing.
When all our orders were on the counter, I handed my credit card to the cashier. The person must’ve been a supervisor because he wasn’t wearing the green apron. (This is my assumption which may be inaccurate) But this supervisor only rang up my order. I told him to ring up the other items to my card. He answered vaguely and said, “I’ll ring up your order first.”
Once he rang up my order, I was ready to insert the card again. Instead the smiling supervisor with clasped hands told the “pacing” guy that his food “was on the house today.” Huh?! What just happened here?!
I was taken aback because of its unexpected nature. He then looked at me and said, “Thank you for your kindness. I hope you have a great day.” I felt humbled and blessed by this person’s thoughtful act and was filled with gratefulness. It was strange that someone commented on my “kindness,” but he didn’t know the inner turmoil and my reluctance.
I thought I was going to do something nice for a stranger, but in turn I got blessed so much more. I felt God was there in our midst. I was able to see God’s goodness in other people’s hearts. I wanted to be kind, but in turn, I was touched by the Starbucks’ guy’s kindness and thoughtfulness.
The “pacing” guy was very happy too and he asked the supervisor if he could eat inside. He got his food, sat down at one of the tables, and started to unwrap the plastic wrap from his sanwhich. I don’t know why but this sight made me want to cry.
Isn’t God amazing and good?? In that moment God showed me He will bless my feeble efforts and gifts, but I need to first obey His voice. But how many times do I ignore and rationalize why I can’t do what He wants. God is God of the universe and everything belongs to Him anyway, and He makes a way when there is no way. Geesh, such little faith on my part although God shows me his extraordinary love in big and small ways.
When I excitedly shared the story with my kids afterwards, they were interested in the details: what did this guy look like?; did he not have money to buy food?; which sandwich did he pick?; how could I go to Starbucks without them; and lastly, can they get a treat for being good students in science class that morning.
Kids can be so random. But in sharing my honest encounters, the fears and joys that giving produces, I hope they learn too that kindness matters.