Five Creams and Five Sugars

By Zoanna Pearson
Selah Companion

He babbled to himself.  No teeth, dirty clothing, unshaven, cradling two small duffle bags to his chest.  Sitting on a bench inside the grocery store, air-conditioned comfort on a 90-degree day.

My peripheral vision caught him, and we made eye contact for an instant.  “Ma’am, some money?”

I quickly shifted my eyes to the doorway, parking lot, and safety.  In my car, the haunting eyes were watery, weary, confused, and ashamed.

Yet buried deep in his soul, a spark of dignity.

Sitting in my car, I heard the words, “You go to Africa, you are going to China, yet you walk by a soul in your own town?”

I began to line up my excuses.  I’m in a hurry; my husband is waiting, and I don’t have time. Is it safe?  He is probably a druggie.

“There is no excuse…go back.”

And so I returned, walking up to him, I said, “I’m sorry I walked by you. Will you forgive me?”  

Ignoring my feeble apology, he said, “I just need some money for food, Ma’am,” not speaking of forgiveness.

“May I take you to breakfast, sir?” 

“I’d like that, he replied.”

And that is how we ended up at the fast food restaurant across the street; me, an elderly white woman, and he, a well-used black man somewhere shy of 65 years old.

Walking up to the counter to place our order, we were met with an icy stare and a visible backing off as if to put distance between the clean and the unclean.

By this time, I knew the Roamer’s name was Ricky; an interesting coincidence that my son-in-law, who died at 63, was also named Ricky.

“Order what you’d like, Ricky,” and he did; a sausage, egg & cheese biscuit, hash browns, and a large coffee with five creams and five sugars.

After taking our orders, the employee leaned over the counter and, in a stage whisper, said, “Would you mind if I put this in a to-go box? We don’t like ‘his kind’ in the restaurant.”

“Yes, as a matter of fact, I do mind. Ricky is my guest, and we will be dining together. Please add a $5.00 gift card to the order.”

Shocked? Yes.  Until I remembered my reaction was no different when I walked by him in the grocery store, the chasm deep protecting the distance between us.

Waiting for the order, I asked him how he happened to be homeless.  He told me sadly that his wife died two years ago, and his world fell apart.  Truth?  Who knows?  It doesn’t matter.

“Feed my lambs.”

Ricky didn’t eat his breakfast; putting the gift card in a worn wallet, he neatly wrapped his breakfast in a napkin and put it in his duffle.  He said he might be hungrier later.

But that is not the end of the story. 

 Sometimes serving has more to do with the attitude of the heart than with a specific task.  

Zoe Pearson, the Learner

I drove home feeling both profoundly sad and warmly satisfied.  When I opened my front door, my husband called out, “Just in time, I am taking the quiches out of the oven right now.”  I had forgotten that he said he would bake a couple of small quiches while I went to the store, and we’d have breakfast together.

“Oh, Chuck, I’ve already eaten. I forgot.”   

“What?”

And then I told him the story of Ricky, the Wanderer, and the five creams and five sugars.

Never a scowl, never a hint of retribution or anger. “You did the right thing, Zoe,”  my husband said.  “You listened to what God was asking you to do.”

That day I learned that sometimes serving is about making it easy for others to act on God’s voice.

Zoe Pearson, the Learner

About Here & Now

An Invitation to Pause, Encounter & Grow Together.

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Here & Now welcomes new writers–contact the Editor, Debora Buerk, at deborabuerk@icloud.com.

Spiritual Direction

Today, we feature a poem written by our own Kathleen Heppell. In it, she writes how she feels when in Spiritual Direction.

New Year’s

Revelation 21:1-6a

A Word of Intention

By Mary Pandiani
Executive Director
Selah Center

To start the new year, we read this scripture with anticipation and a promise. The “home of God is with His people” where God’s presence resides with us, no matter what the circumstances. We have the unending flow of God’s fountain, like the original baptismal waters that came from a river, always renewing, always originating from the source of life. 

In early church baptisms, a stream ran through the church so the waters were never stagnant. Similarly, as we start this new year we begin again, finding restoration in the living waters that come from the One who makes all things new. 

One way to be intentional about the new year is to explore what a “word” might be for the entire year. 

Rather than proclaiming a New Year’s resolution that may last for six weeks at the most, listen for the invitation by God for the choice of a word. Listening proves to be more life-giving and honest than assigning some goal or need for accomplishment. It’s a way to explore the intention to have for this beginning again. The discovery of the word becomes more about the integration of being and doing than just the doing. 

The process usually starts with dedicating some time to ask these questions: 

  1. What seems to be resonating with my soul right now? 
  2. What are ways I’ve seen God at work as the last year comes to a close and a new year begins? 
  3. What images/pictures come to mind and heart as I take time in quiet to be present to God? 

Sometimes it comes through scripture or a poem, or a conversation. Over time, usually a week or more, a pattern emerges that brings some confirmation. It cannot be forced. I wait for as long as I need to wait. One year the word didn’t appear until late March. If I’m honest, there are years where the word sticks and other years where it was helpful but not necessarily profound. If I keep the word prominent in some form, whether in a journal or an artistic expression, I use it as a lens to see the year—a way to stay awake to the ways God is present. 

While there’s no formula for the process, it begins with the question:

What is the longing God is revealing to me for this year? 

As we say in Selah, if all we can bring is desire, that is enough. Perhaps your “word” begins with expressing the desire to have an intention given by God. Remain open and receptive to what may unfold for you.

With whatever word you have for this new year, may you discover the ways God is with you as you continue to come alive and awake to the journey God has set before you.