Saturday, March 5, 2011

An Unexpected Guest

I think God has a sense of humor. I mean, God must have one to watch some of the things we do and still love us. And I'm not sure, but I think God might have been exercising that sense of humor with me today.

First, if you don't already know, I wrote a blog post about how March is National Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. If you haven't already done so, maybe you might consider checking that one out and reading it. It's just the previous post on my blog, so it should be easy to find. But if you want me to make it easier for you, you can find it by clicking here. It's not imperative to this story that you read it, but to fully appreciate this story I think you at least need to know that I wrote it.

So, today I decided it would be a good day to take a book and go find a coffee shop and drink some coffee and read for a while. I drove a little ways out of town just so I could find one where I didn't think I'd know anyone. Not that I don't like talking to people, just some days it's good to be a little anonymous. I didn't have one in mind, I just drove for a bit and then saw a sign advertising a Caribou Coffee off the next exit of the highway, so I picked that one and decided to stop there.

When I arrived at this coffee shop, it wasn't very busy, so it wasn't hard to find a table and settle in. Now, I'm a people watcher and easily distracted, so every time the door would open I'd look up from my book to see who was coming into the shop. There were a few couples, some parents with kids, a few older ladies and some others. As more people came into the coffee shop, it began to fill up. Soon, as far as I could see, only one high top table was empty but no table was completely full. Most had only one, two or three people at them.

Well, one time the door opened and I looked up to see two young men walking in. As I watched them walk up to the counter and look at the baked goods, it became evident that one of them had a developmental disability (DD). I watched as the other young man talked to the young man with the DD and asked what he wanted to get. I didn't want to stare, so I turned back to my book and continued to read.

A few minutes later, however, the young man with the DD came over and sat right down at my table. He didn't say anything, just sat there and began to eat his chocolate chip cookie. I looked up from my book, startled and a little surprised, but I smiled and said hello. He mumbled a little hello before taking another bite of cookie.

I looked over at the counter and saw the other young man was still up at the cash register paying for the items that they ordered with his back to us, so I don't think he noticed what his friend had done.

Soon he was done paying and turned to see where his friend had gone and noticed that he was at my table. He came over with a sheepish grin and apologized saying, "I don't think he likes the high top table." I responded by saying that it was ok, that I really didn't need a four person table all to myself, so the other guy pulled up a chair at the end and sat down.

Pretty quickly after that, the first young man finished eating his cookie, so he turned and told his friend that he was done. As they got up from the table the other young man said, "Are you going to say good bye to your new friend?" The first young man stopped and turned and looked at me. I said, "Good bye!" and he looked at me for a second and then started to walk away. The other young man said, "Say good bye!" He then responded with a little wave before he made his way toward the door.

I couldn't help but laugh at this situation. Out of all of the coffee shops that I could have gone to I randomly end up at that particular one. I didn't choose any of the others I passed on my way there, for whatever reason I happened to pick this particular coffee shop, and so did these two young men.

And then, out of all of the empty chairs at all of the tables that were in the coffee shop, this young man chose to sit at the empty chair at my table, only days after I had written a blog post about my experiences with people with developmental disabilities. It just seems so random and so impossible, doesn't it? And yet, it happened. I was there and so were they. There was an empty chair at my table and he chose that one for his seat. I just can't not believe that God wasn't somehow at work in this situation, smiling at what was playing out, and probably even laughing a bit about it.

Oh, and what makes it even funnier? The book I happened to be reading was "The Road to Daybreak" which was written by Henri Nouwen during the year he lived in the L'Arche community for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their assistants in France.

So all of these things aligned at that one moment. Maybe it was random, just a coincidence. But I choose to believe that God was smiling down on it.

[For more information about L'Arche all over the world, click here. For information about L'Arche in the United States, try here.]

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