On the Way and Back Again

Posted: January 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

I recently traveled to the West Coast for a conference. The airports provided locales for unexpected conversations both going and coming. You never know what you’ll find out unless you listen.

On the way I indulged in one of my pure luxuries – a shoe shine. I seldom polish my shoes or polish them well. When I have a layover and some extra cash I contribute to the local economy. While the zapatas were receiving some luster I talked to the shoe shine guy. He had just been to the hospital to visit his mother and in fact missed several days of work because of it. There’s hadn’t been very many customers so he was glad I stopped by. I asked about his mom. She is aged and her health fragile. He didn’t know if she could pull out of this one. Somehow we started talking about our fathers, too. And in both our households the fathers were spiritual leaders of the outside things and the mothers of the inside matters of heart. As I’m paying I ask for his mother’s name. It’s Anne, he says. Ok, she’s on my list, say I. And so she is. Anne.

On the way back I have an even longer layover because flights had been cancelled due to weather. Somewhere in my five hour wait I decide to eat so I choose from the array of restaurants. Mexican wins and I order the fish tacos. I always rate the fish tacos wherever I go. Some are good and some are better. These weren’t so good as fish tacos go, but clearly edible. My server is Cheryl. I know because I asked her name. She reached out her hand and shook mine, asking for my name. Tim, thank you. That made it official. She asks what I did for a living. Well, you know, a pastor. Oh, a pastor, she says, thank God for you guys. You matter. In fact she goes right on, my mom just died of cancer and I took her home from Phoenix to Chicago to die, to be near family and the burying grounds. I was there at the last, there for the mystery of her last breath. What a holy moment, I say, and she nods. She says that because there’s not a whole lot to help children understand death she’s going do try to write some children’s books to help that. I say God is probably calling her to this mission and don’t give up on it. Cheryl is crying and other wait staff think maybe I insulted her or something. No, it’s fine, she says. I’m just teary eyed.

And I coasted on home, but where is that, really? Home is wherever people have a conversation about matters of the heart. God shows up with shoes and tacos, moms and kids. Just watch and wait. It will find you. And you don’t have to be in an airport on a layover. Any old place will do.

  1. Jan Coffman says:

    …and more interesting than reading another John Grisham mystery? So, you’re telling us you really enjoy listening to our stories? …you really do enjoy your job. …and we should try it? …oooOK…

  2. Jan Coffman says:

    Ok, I did it this afternoon; and I will be talking to the person again this next week. The person was worried about an illness of a family member.

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