Thursday, January 12, 2012

Just Giving

I bought a total stranger a cup of coffee this morning. I want to tell you what happened. .

Most mornings I stop by the coffee shop on my way to the office. This morning there was a man sitting at an inside table looking old, tired, dejected, poor.

I tried to make eye contact when I walked by, but his head didn’t move. I got in line, fished a five out of my pocket, and ordered two coffees. One for me, one for him.

I looked again to see if there was anything sitting on the table in front of this man. No coffee, nothing else. I paid for the coffees and went to put some cream in mine.

Turning around to make sure he was still there, I saw that the chairs and tables had been set up and he’d moved there—outdoors in the morning cold.

I picked up both coffees and headed out the door. I felt my hands warm as I held the cups.

As I exited, the man stood up. He was reaching in his pocket. As I left, I gave him his cup of coffee and said “Hey, man, this should warm you up.”

“Sure will. Thank you” was his response. He put the coffee down and pulled a cigarette and matches out of his pocket. As I drove away, I saw him take the first draw from his cigarette, and first sip of his coffee.

Right then, for about a second, I thought I’d been had.

He had cigarettes. And I instantly concluded that if he’d had enough money to buy cigarettes, he should’ve ordered his priorities better. Had he done that, he would’ve had money for coffee.

I immediately felt ashamed.

Years ago, I made a decision. Give without judgment; it frees the heart. And for a split second, I did exactly the opposite.

I saw a man sitting by himself, alone in a coffee shop, at 5:30 in the morning. His clothes were old, worn, and dirty. His face was the same. His head was down, his hands pushed in his pockets. No coffee.

I didn’t ask his age, his background, or his country of origin. I didn’t inquire about his income or his employment. Didn’t ask about his history, his family, or his level of education. And I didn’t ask about the circumstances, the events, or the decisions that lead him to this moment, cold and alone in a coffee shop.

I gave him a cup of coffee because my heart felt his fear, his loneliness, and his chill. I hoped the coffee gave him a little warmth. I made the decision the second I saw him.

This year, and for years to come, give without pause or discrimination. Allow your gift to go forth as unfettered and unencumbered as possible. Let your heart light your offerings, and share with one another the blessings of your spirit.

I’m going to get another cup of coffee….

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