Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: COFFEE BREAK / TEA BREAK (03/01/18)
TITLE: Never Just
By Lori Othouse
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Coming to a stop in front of one of them, a kind voice called out, “Ready for some Joe, Joe?”
A man looked up between tufts of dirty hair sticking out from an old scarf tied around his head. His eyes crinkled into a smile.
“Ready and waiting, Sara. You know that.”
She poured steaming coffee into a paper cup and handed it to him. His weathered hands reached out and held the cup like a treasure. It was Saturday morning, and that meant Sara and her coffee cart were there, rain or shine.
Today, however, she was not alone. Mitch, a twenty-something grad student and Sara’s nephew, followed along, tapping at his phone every few minutes and taking it all in.
“So…I don’t get it,” he began, “Your coffee shop is closed right now, losing business, and you’re out here handing out your inventory…for free? You must get a huge tax break for this.”
“I actually don’t claim this, too much hassle.”
“What? Why not? You could be making money right now.”
Sara smiled. “I’m doing something better. I’m making a difference.”
Seeing the still-puzzled look on Mitch’s face, she continued.
“Your internship is to study small inner-city businesses, right? Well, this is part of my business. As much as customer service, marketing or anything else. Part of my business model is to give back to my community, to those less fortunate, even if it’s just a cup of coffee, because sometimes…they just need a break.”
“A break?” Mitch snorted, “From what?”
The man in the scarf pulled himself up to standing, staring Mitch in the eye. “A break from the cold, young man. A break from loneliness. From the emptiness in your stomach and in your heart. Sara gives us that. To me, she’s an angel.”
Sara hugged him, blinking back tears, and helped him back to his seat on the ground. “Let’s keep going,” she whispered.
Moved only slightly, Mitch continued. “Okay, it’s nice and all, but how much good is it really doing? They probably won’t even remember you. They’re just homeless people.”
Sara stopped and turned to him.
“Never say that someone is ‘just’ this or that when you have no idea about them.” She pointed down the alley. “See that man? He was a pilot. He was grounded for a crash and couldn’t fly anymore. His wife left and took the kids and he hasn’t seen them in ten years.”
She motioned to someone else. “And him? He became addicted to painkillers after an accident and lost too many jobs to try anymore. And her… her husband decided he wanted someone else after 18 years and left her with nothing.”
Mitch’s expression softened as he looked around.
“We do others a disservice when we label them as ‘just’. They are so much more than that. And, no matter who they are, in God’s eyes, we’re all equal. He’s got just as much love for them as he does for you and me. I may not change their lives, but how can I not share with them a simple cup of coffee when I have the means to do so?”
The last of the leaves had fallen and the bitter winds of winter had arrived. It was a particularly frigid Saturday when Sara was delayed by the morning traffic. When she finally arrived at the shop, she was surprised to find Mitch brewing coffee and stocking the cart.
“There you are,” he said, “I was getting worried.”
“It was traffic. Um, what are you doing?”
“Do you know how cold it is out there? They’re gonna need this today.”
“I didn’t think you-“
“Cared? I didn’t. At first. But you’ve really opened my eyes, Aunt Sara. To a lot of things. And, forget what I said before. You are changing lives here. Including mine.”
He bent down to get more cups from the cabinet.
“Thank you, Mitch. But the truth is, God does the changing. I just hand out coffee.”
He smiled up at her.
“Never just,” he winked, “Never just.”
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