Mile Log: 525
This morning at Dunkin' Donuts, while enjoying my warm croissant and hot coffee and getting into Brennan Manning's memoir, I met Everett.
I like to casually people-watch when I am out in public alone. So I observed this skinny older man with no teeth and dirty, worn-out clothes order two large coffees - one "doctored up" and the other black with a side of "diabetic sugar," as he called it. When the cashier told him his total was $3, he loudly sighed and commented on its unexpected pricey-ness. The cashier showed him the size of the large coffee cup and asked if he wanted to change his order. He gratefully took her up on this offer and downsized to two smalls.
While his drinks were being prepared, he wandered over to my table and said hello. I looked up, smiled, said hello, and went back to my book. "My name's Everett. Can I buy you a donut?" Again I smiled and said, "Nice to meet you, Everett. I don't need a donut right now, but thank you." Back to my boo- "Are you sure? I'd like to buy you something. You need to eat - you're too little."
That is the third time this week I've been told how little I am, and I can feel a complex developing. I really just want to read my book, and I don't think I should point out that I just witnessed him spend his last dime on a small coffee. Who was the second coffee for, anyway, and how exactly did he plan to pay for my donut? I held up my wadded wrapper as evidence. "Just had my breakfast, so I'm good."
"Well you know," he continued before I could bury my nose in my book again, "I got a 3.9 GPA at Indiana University. I didn't turn in two papers on time, otherwise I would have had a 4.0. But my brain... you know, they want my brain, cuz I'm really very smart." And what does this have to do with the price of donuts? I smile, nod, and sip my coffee to mask my severe skepticism. "And you know I'm working on a cure for cancer. And I'm close - really close - on the edge of something big. They want to buy my ideas - buy them! You can't buy my brain!"
I wanted to ask who "they" were, but the plots from A Beautiful Mind and The Soloist were screaming in my head. I wanted to know his story - his real story - but I don't think he would have been able to tell me, if I had asked. It would have been funny if it wasn't so heartbreaking. He went on for a few more minutes about genes and chromosomes and if "they" gave him the chance he could find a cure for me, so I could use my legs again. "But they don't want me to live... but I can't die, because there is too much in my brain that could help people."
I had nothing to say. I finally closed my book and looked - really looked at Everett. This man looked like he was homeless, probably sleeps under the bridge a couple blocks away - the one my friend Ben visits sometimes because he follows Jesus there. Maybe Ben knows Everett. This man most likely has schizophrenia or some other form of mental illness that he no doubt has battled for years. Maybe he has a history of addictions or bad luck or an ugly combination of both. Part of me wanted desperately to just label, stereotype, and dismiss him. It would have been easy, except that he was so human... it would have been so easy, except-
"What's your name, baby girl?" Strictly for the purpose of not being called "baby girl" again, I told him my first name. "Connie, glad to know you," he said, and then became suddenly self-conscious. "Can I- I mean, is it alright if I... shake your hand?" I said yes, and he leaned over my table and gently took one of my hands in both of his for a moment. "Connie, you know you are my friend. You won't forget ol' Everett now, will you?"
I smiled again, this time a little wobbly, trying not to get too emotional. I wondered how many people have shaken his hand, listened to his conspiracy theories, and called him by his name. I don't think I did anything exceptional for him, but I wondered if that is all it takes to become his friend, and how many friends he has. "I won't forget, Everett." We said good-bye and he was gone.
I looked back down at the cover of my book, at the title: All is Grace. I stared and sipped my cold coffee and thought about my new friend, and about grace. I wonder how Everett would respond to the grace of God... has he already experienced it, or will he soon? What will he be like if it touches him? I thought about how Jesus extended grace to so many people - touching the untouchable, listening to the crazies, speaking with those society would sooner ignore, giving names to the hopeless. I know He reaches anywhere and everywhere to rescue and heal and offer hope and breathe life... he did it for so many in the Bible, he did it for Brennan Manning, he did it for me... and I know he can do it for my new friend, Everett, too.