When you come into the same place, at the same time, over and over again, you begin to listen to your surroundings. You begin to distinguish the usual from the unusual, the ordinary from the extraordinary. You begin to see what belongs and what doesn’t.
I have taken up temporary residence this summer, at a little booth inside our local Tim Hortons. I get here about a quarter to six, every morning, and I am served my medium coffee with two creams, by the same kind woman behind the counter.
I come and sit at the same place. I write a few words. I pack up, and I head home to my family for second breakfast. (I love second breakfast).
Across from me sits a young woman who is probably in her middle thirties. She wears no make- up. She keeps her hair tidy in a pony-tail. She sits across from me for about an hour or so.
She is always here before me. Sometimes very awake. Sometimes very sleepy and tired. Sometimes on her phone and on other occasions, I see her bored fingers leaf through the pages of the daily newspaper.
Then she is gone.
As I sat down this very morning, she was crying.
I have spent my whole life pretending not to see when people cry, it seemed a lot easier, more convenient, but I can no longer allow myself to do that. I am not sure why, but I have acquired a new sense of awareness. A new consciousness. A metamorphosis of sorts.
I asked her why she was crying and she explained that her grandmother died three hours ago.
I asked her if she wanted company. She accepted.
I moved up one booth and sat down. We introduced ourselves, and spent a few brief moments in conversation.
It wasn’t very long.
I didn’t really do that much for her. How could I?
I said very little, and I am certain that the pain in her heart is no better after the experience.
I am no miracle worker, but I did let her talk and I listened.
She told me about her grandmother. I also listened to the struggles and the battlefield of her life. I asked questions. I offered encouraging words, when I could.
She soon parted and she went to work.
I am not sure what to make about any of this, except for the fact that I continue to do funny things in my life. Little acts that I would have never had done before.
What would people think?
A married man with two children, having a coffee with a young woman he doesn’t know, and so early in the morning too. Clearly up to something!
All I know, is that I took some time to listen to another human being tell me her brief, unconnected story, about a woman she lost and would never see again.
It didn’t take long. It wasn’t that difficult.
I think we need to sometimes ignore what people might think.
When people think. Nothing happens.
We leave each other alone. We run on our little hamster wheel. We go to work. We get home. We see nothing. We hear nothing. We see nothing.
But what about the possibilities?
I think it is time to call your friend whom you haven’t seen in a long while. It’s time visit your mother who suffers with Alzheimer’s.
It’s time to say something kind to your neighbour. Give a kind and gentle smile to the server that messed up your order.
It’s time to give some change, to the poor. Forgive. Let go.
It’s time to listen.