Coffee closeness in COVID times
Aileen was a wonderful committed Catholic.
She endured a significant mental illness. However, she kept this to herself. Only a few trusted friends knew that every day carried burdens for her in simply coping with life.
Her vibrant Christian faith enabled her to experience the Calvary Cross in her struggles. This gave her a particular serenity and peace. She allowed the death and resurrection of Jesus to breath into her every moment. As a consequence, this gave her a rare empathy with others who suffered. So many commented to me about this gift of the Holy Spirit within her.
One of her weekly highlights was her participation in the local parish scripture sharing group on every Wednesday afternoon.
After one of these sessions she walked from the parish to her home. On the way, she stopped at a local coffee shop for a short break.
As was her normal manner, Aileen greeted the waitress warmly and engaged in some general chat. The waitress commented upon Aileen’s happy manner. Aileen shared that she was returning from a gathering at the nearby local Catholic parish. She shared how the group gave her much hope and inspiration.
The waitress shared briefly too. She said she used to be a Catholic but had left the Church some years ago. She began what so many of us have heard – a kind of brief “rant” about the matter. But no. She stopped herself and paused for the briefest of moments. She then, in a kind of sigh, stated that she may have to revisit her decision in the times ahead. Aileen listened attentively without speaking a word. Perhaps the waitress could feel Aileen’s famed empathy and non-verbal encouragement to progress on such a path of deeper reflection on her past decision.
On the way out of the shop Aileen prepared to pay the bill. She also searched her handbag deeply and found a little gift. She handed the money and the little gift to the waitress and thanked her sincerely.
Then something unexpected happened.
The waitress stopped and pondered on this spontaneous act of kindness. She then thanked Aileen deeply and, surprisingly, began to weep. She said:
“Thank you for being so gracious to me. You know, I have had a very demanding day. You are the only person who has been kind to me. And now you have given me a gift. And you know, believe it or not, today is my birthday!”
Aileen shared this beautiful story with us in full detail the following week at our scripture sharing group. We all prayed for the waitress. I felt that Aileen offered us a great example of what Catholic evangelisation is all about.
Her subtlety and gentle prompting to the waitress to look at life from a Godly perspective was a great example to me of a Marian type of evangelisation.
A woman with great vulnerabilities meets another woman with her own vulnerabilities. Out from this encounter of shared weakness comes the healing power of the Holy Spirit.
May we all learn from this little story.
During this Covid-19 pandemic that we must all endure we too have become vulnerable in so many ways to heath, employment and relational issues. But we really do not know what is going on in the heart of others – even those who we meet regularly in our families, in the neighbourhood, and at work.
In the isolation that so many feel, may we be like Aileen and offer little subtle gestures of graciousness and kindness. This brings the closeness of Jesus to others in the most unexpected of ways.