I was on the way home from work and just popping into a cafe to check out a space they had available for a meeting. Just a quick look and then home for half an hour before picking up the kids from school.
But as I walked toward the coffee shop, I felt overcome by a dark cloud that whispered,
You are lonely and you do not have real friends.
I stopped still on the footpath. The darkness swirled around my feet.
Weird. I thought. You have friends. You’re not lonely… are you?
The thought came on so suddenly and the feeling of grief and loss that accompanied it was crushing. It felt it so strongly that I pulled out my phone to text Leigh. I feel lonely and without friends today. (Poor long-suffering Leigh.)
I stood on the footpath for a minute and prayed. I rejected the feeling, shoved my phone back into my pocket and head into the cafe.
As I walked into the brightly lit cafe, an elderly man with watery blue eyes and a pleasant face looked up and smiled at me. I smiled back and made my way to the counter to chat to the cafe owner. He showed me the space and it was perfect and we reserved it in his diary. The owners were so nice I decided to buy eggs and sit for a bit.
I sat down next to the old man. He smiled and said hello. We talked for a bit about his career, his favourite memories, the worst day of his life. He’d had a stroke so he spoke in circles a little. But that was okay. He was gentle and pleasant and I enjoyed talking with him.
He had no wife. No children. No brothers and sisters. When I asked him what he did with his days, he said, “I come here. Everyone here is my friend.” I looked around the near empty cafe. Two men in suits having a business meeting, the owner and a young barista.
I had to leave to collect my girls from school. As I collected my things, he leaned in and said, “you are a good person. A very good person. The world needs you.”
I thanked him, said I hoped we’d meet again and left.
* * *
Back out on the footpath, I had a crazy thought. The fog of bad feeling that had overwhelmed me before I entered the cafe… could that have been the old man’s loneliness? Did his feelings leak out onto the street and absorb into my heart before I even saw him smile?
Could it have been God, breaking my heart a little for an elderly man who needed half an hour of my time?
YES!! So good to read this. It reminds me that if we’re open and listening to God’s voice we can become aware of a world of pain outside of our own – really aware – and in turn I hope we can be Jesus to them, just like you were today.
Oh. My. Gosh. Yes. I love that you absorbed his loneliness- so beautiful.
You are such a precious human bet there are so many who would be your friend. Sometimes in the busyness of what we have been called to do friendships get a bit lost – depleted but not gone – just need a bit of love sprinkled on them and they come back to life – redefined – so glad you spent that time with the elderly gentleman – we may consider him lonely but wonder if he does. All so interesting <3
Indeed it’s also been my experience that God speaks to us with the feelings of people he wants us to interact with. In a prayer environment I might suddenly feel pain and then realise it is the pain being experienced by someone else in the meeting so I can pray for it with real fervour and power. I have also felt the temptation in the mind of another person and realised the vulnerability of the victim of that temptation. I was impressed to go immediately to the aid of that potential victim. That feeling was confirmed at the time and a bad situation averted so it was really confronting to me how God can work. Are we always alert to the Holy Spirit? Or do we always think it’s all about ourselves?
Thank you for sharing this story! The leaking of the feeling of the older man found its way!