I have discovered the peace and solitude of a little family-type restaurant called “The Copper Lantern.” On some occasions, Shelly and I will have a “date” morning and enjoy breakfast together. Other mornings, I’ll go alone and enjoy coffee with time to read, dream, and reflect.

I’ve noticed over the few months of doing this that there are many “regulars” like myself. There’s a group of 4-6 guys who trade stories of golf or fishing every morning. There’s another group of guys at the counter catching up with each other as they start their day. There are police officers and highway patrolmen, business people, families, and people just like myself having breakfast. Some are alone. One such loaner I named “oatmeal” man. Oatmeal man is an elderly gentleman that always orders oatmeal. I discovered him one morning as I was deep in my meditative thoughts. Actually, I first became aware of a clanking, clinking sound. As I looked around the restaurant, I soon realized that the culprit was … oatmeal man! It’s amazing how obnoxious and distracting the sound of a metal spoon clinking in a glass bowl can shatter the peaceful solitude of an early morning cup of coffee. Some mornings I would be reading, or Shelly and I would be having breakfast and suddenly there was the noticeable sound of a clank, clank, clink, and there he was. Over the next few weeks, I became more aware of oatmeal man, and I made it a point to watch for him. I thought to myself from the relative safety of my booth, “this man is rude and obnoxious.” Doesn’t he realize how obnoxious he is? But over time I began to notice something else. Anytime anyone would walk by, he’d look up – intently – almost childlike as if to ask – do you see me? Do you know I’m here? I thought to myself, bud, the whole restaurant knows you’re here! As I thought about oatmeal man, I wondered, is he always alone? What’s his name? Is he married? Is his wife housebound or perhaps has she passed away? Maybe his clanking spoon is his way of asking, do I really matter anymore, maybe his obnoxious noise was so that someone somewhere would acknowledge his existence.

I wonder how many times we experience people who are obnoxious and loud, clanking their way through life. From a safe distance, we notice their activity and wonder why they act like they do. Maybe they’re lonely. Maybe they wonder if anyone even notices them. With each clank they’re asking, am I alive? Am I valuable? Do I matter anymore?

I realized it’s really not enough to tell people that God loves them. I can’t just quote a few scriptures at them as I quietly think to myself, quit clanking your spoon!

Yes, people need to know that God loves them. God knows them and cares about them. But more importantly, God needs people willing to leave the safety of their side of the restaurant and engage people in a meaningful way. Their clanking spoon may be a cry asking someone to notice them, care for them, or express God’s love to them – Selah.

 

. . . Today, I bought Clarence his oatmeal.

oatmeal photo credit