It always happens. The unexpected happens when you are least on guard.
The unexpected happened in between errands. A morning adventure to the library ended in a detour to a local mom-and-pop restaurant. Although the establishment has been in operation for a few years now, I’ve only just discovered them. They serve home-cooked southern soul food, heaven on a plate! Speaking of heaven, the atmosphere is uplifting, warm and encouraging as well. If you return a second time, you become a naturalized member of the family. The staff serves in an uncommonly gracious manner. The music ranges from southern gospel to black gospel to modern praise.
I had just stepped into my home to put away the leftovers and grab the details I needed for the last of the errands when the unexpected happened. My home phone rang. Usually it is a telemarketer so I often do not answer. With one of the three people with personal contact who has my home number being my mom (who inadvertently does call the home number on the rare occasion), I am always concerned if I do not answer, it will be the one time she is calling in an emergency. So having just stepped into my home, I answered the home line. Then the unexpected happened.
There was a delayed response to my hello which began me thinking telemarketer indeed. When the caller finally began speaking, it sounded as if he were calling from a call center. (There were multiple conversations in the background.) Also his accent is commonly heard when speaking with a customer service center. The caller interrupted my usual speech (and unorthodox antics) requesting removal from their call list. He proceeded to tell me that he had been “watching me for days and couldn’t believe he had found me”, addressing me by my last name. My hackles began to rise. My anger began to rise when he said he wanted to kiss me. My anger wanted physical expression upon hearing his next line, but not the physical expression he suggested I perform on him. A half-dozen possible responses motivated by a large load of adrenalin was pinging through my brain. Most of them I could not make happen in that split second so I settled on putting the call on speaker phone and yelling, “John, there’s someone wanting to talk to you on the phone!” (By the way, I was home alone.) The caller disconnected.
I immediately booted up the computer and typed out a transcript of the conversation. I contacted law enforcement and the phone company. Feeling very exposed and vulnerable, I made a mental list of possible adjustments and resources should the calls continue. I kept reminding myself that it sounded like a random prank from an overseas call center but nonetheless I really wanted to leave my home quickly. How uncanny to get a phone call of that nature when only in the past few weeks I had begun sitting out on the back patio.
I headed to the creative retail store that often has been my haven. The managers know me as does the sales staff. One of the sales girls who had returned from maternity leave brightened and waved excitedly when I walked in. I wasn’t in a particularly talkative mood so I just waved at the familiar faces, smiled, nodded and kept moving. I was ever so grateful to hear the overhead music, one of my favorite things about the store.
Then the unexpected happened. A manager was walking parallel to me as we walked up separate aisles. There was a different kind of look in his eye than I had ever noticed; he looked as if he was contemplating what to say. I assumed he was going to “chide me” for allowing such a long time to pass since my last visit. Instead his words broke through my personal state of shock with a tale of far greater weight, for indeed his world had been rocked and was shaking. My obscene phone call transformed into a mere annoyance, much like the pesky mosquitos in my new outdoor living space (patio).
When the unexpected entered his world, so did cancer. He is weak from the chemo and has already lost a lot of weight because of the inability to eat, actually losing five pounds over the weekend. He is barely keeping liquids down. He is having to work in spite of it all for insurance coverage. He will be going in for his third round of chemotherapy at the end of the week. He shared a few more details then asked about my parents. I laughingly told him that they were in better condition than I am in, trying to lighten the mood, being fully aware that regardless of it all, they were in no way, shape or form suffering like he is. He solemnly said, “I know what you mean. My dad (in his late 70’s) is having to drive me back and forth for the chemo treatments.”
I know this man only through contact in the store. There is a high likelihood that I had never told him my name but I found myself writing down my number and my name, giving him permission to call me if he ever needed someone to take him for treatments or doctor’s visits. I shared that my time is unscheduled, unclaimed and always available should he need it. He thanked me and stated that right now he was well taken care of but promised to call if the need arose. I asked if there is anything that I could do and he simply asked me to pray for him as he rested his head on his hands, leaning heavily on the shopping cart. He was on his way to the backroom to pull more Christmas merchandise (which is already occupying a good part of the shelves on the main floor just beyond the 4th of July and Fall decorations). We parted ways then as help was requested at the fabrics counter.
Later when I walked by fabrics (with him having yet to pull more Christmas items to the sales floor), I couldn’t help but wonder if the guest (who sounded a bit stressed and pushed to the limit) was also dealing with the unexpected, for indeed her world may have recently been rocked and was shaking like his.
It always happens. When the unexpected happens, we reach out in search of Love, with Love, with clearer vision and with simpler purpose in mind.