Last spring, I was waiting in a coffee shop for my friend. I needed to walk out to my car, but I didn’t go. Through the window I could see there was a homeless woman selling potholders and pictures and bracelets. Maybe she was just crazy, and not homeless. Maybe she was both. I didn’t want to talk to her. I didn’t want to walk past her. Or listen to her. I realized the cruelness of it all; the strongest defense we have against meaninglessness is being able to tell our story.
I didn’t want to be uncomfortable. I just wanted to be a pretentious white girl, and take a picture of my coffee, and sweep the crumbs from my scone away before anyone saw what a mess I was making. I didn’t want to be embarrassed by a crumbled scone, but ignoring a human being on purpose didn’t embarrass me.
I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!
I know it’s about expectations. I know I can disappoint her. She won’t be surprised; she’s used to it. Such a little amount of hope is lost when I say no. No, I don’t want to buy a potholder. No, I don’t want to hear your story.
I don’t dare not tip the hipster barista though. She expects it. She feels entitled to it. She believes she has earned it.
After a while I think my friend has forgotten, but she is just late.
Storm clouds roll over us. It’s a perfect day to be having expensive coffee and crumbly scones.
We go outside. I got a parking ticket; surely my punishment. For the ticket amount I could have bought five potholders. We buy bracelets for our daughters. These people are like a magnet for my friend. I follow her; grateful and glad I am friends with someone who pulls me up and out of my selfishness.
The storm clouds pass.