(Reprinted from The Donut Theory by Linda Gillis)
I looked at the clock in my office—4:30. I stuffed everything left on my desk into a drawer, picked up my bag, and headed out the door. My daughter Susan had pre-game color guard rehearsal in two hours and I had just enough time to get home and cook a good meal for her before we left for the high school. But first I needed to make a quick stop at the grocery store for lettuce, pasta sauce, and milk.
I dashed into the store, grabbed a cart, and went directly to the produce department. While I squeezed a few heads of lettuce, an elderly man sauntered over and stood close to my cart. He started to speak in a voice little more than a whisper. “My son’s coming to visit.” I threw the lettuce into my cart and said, “That’s nice. Have a good visit,” and turned my cart toward the dairy cooler.
I picked up a gallon of milk and out of the corner of my eye saw the same old guy shuffling over. Before I could escape, he said, “He hasn’t been home for five years.” I gave him an affirming nod and wheeled toward the checkout counter, grabbing the first bottle of pasta sauce I saw. We could use some sodas for after the game, I thought, and detoured to the side aisle. I leaned over to pick up a case of cola and heard a familiar voice. “He hasn’t been home since his mom died.”
“Lord, help me!” I prayed. “I gave myself five minutes to get in and out of this store, and this guy wants to tell me his life story!” At that moment the anxiety in his eyes tugged at my heart. I wiped a stray strand of hair away from my eyes and leaned on the handle of my cart and listened. I heard the story of a father and son so overcome with grief that they had said ugly things to one another. Then he asked: “What shall I say to him?” I looked into his worried eyes and placed my hand on his. “Just put your arms around him and give him a hug. The words will come.”
Dear God, thanks for the hot dog stand at the stadium. Amen.