Last Monday, I received a phone call from a close friend of mine. “I really need to talk,” she had said. “Can we get together this morning?”
I eagerly agreed. I didn’t have anything planned and I thought it would be fun to spend the morning talking with a friend over a cup of coffee. We agreed to meet at 10:00 pm at a local McDonald’s.
I got to the restaurant about half an hour early but that was okay. I had my books with me and would just relax and read for a while until my friend arrived. I was really surprised, though, when I walked into McDonald’s. The place was packed. Every table was taken and a line of people waiting to order stretched across the lobby. Wow! Why was the place so busy this morning? As I looked around at all of the people, it suddenly dawned on me. Coachella Fest! All of these people were on their way home from the big music festival that had taken place last weekend in Indio, California. Instead of being aggravated as I took my place in line, I found myself smiling. I am a notorious people-watcher. I loved seeing all of the young, excited, dusty, dirty, colorful, beautiful people that were gathered all around me. It was difficult not to get caught up in their excitement and peaceful happy exhaustion.
It took me a few minutes before I was finally able to get my hot cup of coffee. HHhhhmmm….now to find an empty table. Just then, a table right up front by the counter became available and I ran over to claim it. I sat down and glanced around. I wasn’t really happy at this table. It was too close to the front where people were walking back and forth to the counter. In between reading pages of my book, I kept glancing around for other open tables. Oh, another table just became available closer to the back of the restaurant. I grabbed my coffee cup and books and raced over to now claim this table as my own. I sat my books on the table and then sat down. Okay, this was better but I was in the center of the room, which usually makes me a little uncomfortable. Over the pages of my book, I kept my eyes focused on the booths around the sides of the room.
Just then a young woman walked by me. She was about 20 years old with pretty, waist-length long, dark hair. Black plastic glasses were perched on her small nose. She was dressed in respectable khaki shorts and a black Coachella Fest T-shirt. The woman was carrying a tray of food over to a table beside the large picture windows.
“Excuse me,” I heard her say to the elderly woman who was already sitting there. The older woman had been quietly reading the newspaper and sipping from a coffee cup. “Do you mind if I sit with you?”
The elderly woman glanced up from her paper for a moment and stared at the girl over her silver wire-framed glasses. The girl then explained. “All the other tables are taken. I have nowhere to sit. Do you mind if I share your table so I can eat?”
The elderly woman now smiled at her and started to stack up the scattered sections of the newspaper that had been strewn across the table. “Oh, that’s fine,” she answered. “Please, sit down.”
The young woman said a pleasant “Thank you” and took a seat as the elderly woman turned her attention back to her newspaper. They were silent for a moment and then the older woman began to gather the pieces of the newspaper again.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” the young woman responded. “Am I in your way?”
“Oh, no, no,” the older woman answered. “I was afraid I was in your way.”
“No, you weren’t,” the girl responded before she giggled. Suddenly, the two strangers stared at each other and then started to talk like old friends. I turned my attention back to my book but I could hear a few scattered comments about Coachella Fest and visiting Palm Springs. I felt tears burn my eyes as I thought of the two women and wondered why both of them had been alone in a restaurant filled with groups of friends and family members. Strange that they had found each other and seemed to make a peaceful connection.
After a few minutes, the elderly woman stood up from the table and said good-bye to her momentary companion. The young girl smiled and said a shy good-bye as her “friend” walked across the restaurant and out the front door.
Both women had been so kind to each other, I felt particular touched that I had witnessed this interaction. Suddenly, the young woman stood up and walked passed my table on her way to the soda fountain. After refilling her cup, she started to walk back to her table…
And that’s when I made my mistake.
As the young woman passed by my table, I called out to her. “Excuse me,” I said, “I know it’s none of my business, but I thought you were very sweet to that woman at your table. You were very kind.”
The young woman started at me for a moment as if she didn’t quite understand my words. Her face didn’t register any expression. Then she just mumbled “thank you” and returned to her table. Man, I’m an idiot! Why did I say anything to her? It was not my place to say anything, and, in fact, I think I may have embarrassed the young woman. She didn’t expect any praise for her behavior. In fact, she didn’t need my comments at all. I should have kept them to myself. Without comment, without praise, without pretension, without congratulations…that young woman is just who she is…and who she is beautiful…but she doesn’t need me to tell her.
A few minutes later, my friend arrived. She walked over to me and we hugged each other warmly. As she sat down, I felt blessed to share my table with someone. I said a silent prayer of thank you to God for blessing me with so many people who came into my life that day for either just a brief moment or long enough to enjoy a hot cup of coffee with me.