I am no longer blogging here at Little Nuances, but I would love for you to join me on my author website www.leewarren.info.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Making a Connection

Bowl of Soup with Bread

"Enjoy your soup!" said the Panera Bread sandwich artist to the elderly man yesterday afternoon.

The sandwich artist tells her manager, who has joined them at the counter, that the man is a regular and he always waits for his soup at the counter, rather than having it delivered to his table.

"There you go, Sir," the sandwich artist said. "I hope you enjoy it."

The man took his soup and sat down at a nearby table. He and I sat face to face with a couple of tables between us.

A few minutes after he dug into his soup, the sandwich artist wanted to know if it was good. He had a hard time hearing her. She repeated herself, her tone just as cheery as the first time. He still couldn't hear her. She said it again, still cheery, and he simply nodded.

I wondered about his story. Is he a widower? Is he never married and comfortable enough to eat alone in a restaurant? Or is he married and simply carrying out a routine he established long ago – just enjoying some time alone? 

I don't know why, but I wanted to strike up a conversation with him. But he didn't waste any time. He ate quickly and got up to drop his his tray off so he could leave. I refilled my pop, hoping he'd make eye contact, but he put his head down and walked out. I didn't think of it until later, but I should have asked the sandwich artist about the guy.

Hours later, on the other side of town, my mom and I sat down at Village Inn for supper. No, I didn't see the same man from Panera there. Instead a different man approached our table. An elderly man who moved slowly. He recognized my mom, but he had a hard time speaking. A stroke victim? That was my first thought.

"Hi Jim, how are you?" Mom said to him.

He nodded as if to say he was okay. He whispered something and then sat down in a booth by himself. Mom said she used to work with him. He had a heart attack a while back and he isn't able to work any more.

There is so much struggle, heartache and loneliness around us. And I know from experience that even the simplest of gestures can make a difference – not in the project sort of way, because people are not projects, but rather in the connection sort of way, because we all hurt and connections ease the pain.   

"Let's invite him to sit with us," I said.

I can't say it felt like a second chance because I didn't feel like I failed with the first guy. There just wasn't an opportunity to talk to him and, in reality, he sort of had a "leave me alone" vibe. I can respect that.

Mom and I were just about to leave Village Inn, so rather than have Jim join us, Mom went over and talked to him. I couldn't hear what they said, but it didn't matter. They acknowledged one another and that meant something.


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