Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.
He's there... every day. The man in the yellow truck.
The shiny, polished yellow truck that literally sits in the drive through lane at Jacob's Java. He is there at 5am when the espresso stand opens.
You can almost feel his loneliness when you drive up behind him.
It's in his face. He's probably in his fifties, but his face looks well-worn and somewhat expressionless.
He seems desperate for human companionship.
I have gotten to know Casey, the barrista at Jacob's Java, as I am one of the early customers too. She is an attractive, late twenties type of gal with a big heart. She reminds me of many of the young women in my college classes.
Casey makes coffee on the go and is also a part-time counselor to the lonely.
Just like a hairdresser who listens to people's stories as they cut and style hair, barristas are often part coffee peddlers and part compassion givers. They mix complicated espressos and they listen intently, often to people's heartaches and dreams. They listen to the small details you might share with a friend on your phone. They are often magnets for human contact, the kind of connection Brene' Brown says we are all wired to have.
While it's hard to know if that part of their job is what they love to do, or if instead it increases their tips to show personal interest, in Casey's case she has a legitimate caring for those who appear at her window.
She too can feel the loneliness almost oozing from the man in the yellow truck.
On one recent morning when I pulled up to the coffee stand on my way to work, the man in the yellow truck was already there. Not a surprise as he arrives before the window opens.
This morning Casey was deep in conversation with him. I was parked at the opposite window and could see his non verbal communication, even if I couldn't hear the actual words he articulated. He was on a roll and glanced at me in irritation as if I was interrupting his session with a therapist. Casey was nodding and trying to talk and yet backed up toward the espresso machine. She knew without asking the drink I ordered.
And then I saw the tear. The tear that escaped his
eye and slowly made it's way down toward his chiseled, unshaven chin. Then he glanced up, looked guilty, and started his vehicle. He pulled forward and then, for just a brief second, glanced back at Casey. She gave him the smallest wave, almost like a child gives a parent as they head off to work.
At once Casey apologized to me for the delay and I reassured her that all was well. I said, "It must be an interesting part of your job to at once be a coffee maker and a listener to other people's stories. He looks so lonely." She nodded. Casey gave a brief synopsis of his story and said quietly and almost reverently, "It's just a little scary. He said he was alone and no one wanted to even know him. I just try to be kind in the few minutes I see him each morning."
A cup of coffee. Human kindness, overflowing, like the old song says...
Seeing the man in the yellow truck brought back some vivid memories of my own Grandma who lived in California. My Nana, a former teacher, lived in an apartment by herself just blocks from her sister. For some strange reason, she was estranged from her youngest son, Bob, who lived not too far away. Bob's wife didn't really like my Grandma.
Yet he was her only child to live within several thousand miles of her home. My Mom lived in Seattle and my Grandma stayed with us every summer. Ken, her oldest son, lived back East. And Bob, who lived within five miles of my Grandma with his wife and five children, drove by my Grandma's apartment almost every day, even though he never stopped to see her. He never brought the grandchildren by.
It broke my Nana's heart. It brought on a loneliness that permeated every minute of her life.
Nana used to ask my Mom, "Why won't he see me? Why won't he stop by? Doesn't he know how lonely I feel?"
So what my Grandma did to curb her loneliness was to get dressed up, go to nearby shopping centers, get to know the sales people, buy articles and items she didn't need, bring them home and then never open them. When we moved her out of her way-overfull- apartment, we found hundreds of things she had purchased and never used.
She saw the sales folks as her friends, people she could visit with to curb her loneliness and then out of courtesy for taking their time, she bought something so she wouldn't be a "bother," as she used to say.
My Grandma's face looked a great deal like the face of the man in the yellow truck...the toll of being unwanted and alone was palpable.
After hearing a bit of the life story of the man in the yellow truck, shared by Casey, now when I pull into the coffee shop line, I say a prayer. I say it out loud.
"Dear God. Fill his heart. Help him to know you.
Help him know You are His Father and you are always there. Even though he doesn't know it now, He is never alone."
And then when I catch the man in the yellow truck glancing my way, I look him right in the eye, and give a small knowing wave. A touch of human kindness. A small knowing smile that says, "It will be okay. You are okay."
And we both go on our way.
May we all remember, every day, to take a moment and share human kindness that's overflowing to everyone we meet.
And all the people said, "Amen!"
"We are all just walking each other home." ...