Friday, June 08, 2007


Sometimes, free will isn't free. I believe sometimes we are led to the place we are meant to be so that we can serve a purpose beyond the familiar. Today, I am certain that every moment from the time I decided where I would eat lunch to the time when I left to return to work was God working through me.
I know this is a very bold and out there thing to read for some of you, and perhaps surprising to read it here in Bloggerville. Those of you who know me and who've read this blog though know that I pull no punches and tell it like it is, this is just who I am. So no, this isn't some big defining moment in my Christianity, nor is it some great revelation and it definitely is not an evangelical exploit. What follows is simply a moment in the life of some guy who took the time to consider the alternative possibility.
I needed to go to Lowe's to return a flood light that I purchased yesterday and purchase one that actually fits into the fixture where it belongs. While pulling in to the parking lot, I got this great "idea" to stop over at Panera for lunch since it's in the strip mall just across the way and since it's before noon, I should be able to avoid the usual very long lines and difficulty finding a seat.
Just before leaving for lunch, a couple of us were chatting at the library circulation desk. My last words before "I'm heading out to lunch…" were "I'm reading a James Patterson book from the late 80's, but I need to get The 5th Horseman now that the 6th book in the series is out, I need to catch up."
So I finish up at Lowe's, get to Panera, and the line is as long as I've ever seen it even though it's 11:45. I actually turned around to leave then thought," it usually moves pretty well and there are plenty of seats – so I'm gonna stay and get some chicken noodle soup in a sourdough bread bowl (the finest sourdough east of the Mississippi)." I place my order, receive my beeper and while waiting for the soup, grab a cup of water and pick a table; a tall table with two stools. Almost immediately after putting the cup of water down and pulling out my chair, the beeper went ballistic indicating that my soup was ready at the pickup counter. Before they instituted the flashing beeper system it was far more hectic, they've learned how to handle the crowds quite impressively over the years.
As I return to the table, which is right next to a wall with a ledge, I notice a book at the corner of the ledge which was apparently left behind, I assumed inadvertently, by a recent or nearby patron. Further inspection revealed that of all books, it happens to be The 5th Horseman, by James Patterson; how darn freaky is that? There happened to be a woman sitting at the table just on the other side of the wall so I asked if the book was hers. She said that it wasn't then grabbed the book and noticed an index card on the inside that had a note that read, "FREE – take this book home and read it if you wish, enjoy!" She then asked if I would "read a book like that" to which I responded, "I've read the first four books in that particular series and am a big James Patterson fan." She then said, "Well, I've read enough; you may as well take it." She then handed the book to me, and then began talking for about forty minutes straight.
I'd be lying if I didn't say that the devil on my left shoulder constantly whispered things like "she's nuts", "what a fruitcake", "bail now", but there was another voice, and for some reason, I have complete clarity that it was my own, my conscience, recognizing that she might just be someone who is lonely, and really craves some human contact, someone who will listen to her, someone who will acknowledge her presence in this world. Over the course of her talking, she mentioned that she was a baby boomer ("Now I'm giving away my age"), a cancer survivor, a cancer patient, a former member of the military during Vietnam and subsequently went AWOL, a prosecuting attorney, a computer programmer (Cobol and Fortran), among others. She told be of loves lost and how she feels that she has accomplished many things in her life that she is proud of. She was a model; she said "I was beautiful once." To which I felt obliged to respond, "You still are." She just kept talking and gave me very few opportunities to respond, which was fine with me. I sensed she wanted to talk and more importantly, wanted to be heard – so I listened. I listened until the time came where I really did have to leave to get back to work.
She said her name is Nancy. I said that mine is Chris. Her last words to me were "God Bless you Chris" and mine to her, were "God Bless you too Nancy."


brookem said...

chris, that's a really good story. for all you know, that probably made that woman's day. completely. even though she was spilling her WHOLE LIFE STORY to you, maybe, like you said, she just needed someone to listen.
oh and ps- i love those breadbowls there!

Joy said...

That was neat!

Chris said...

Brookem & Joy - Thanks. My greatest hope is that I can look back on this experience and remember that it moved me enough to do it again.

I am guilty of letting my own rush around from one task to another mentality interfere with me stopping every once in a while to realize thisngs like this.