Last week I was in a coffee shop and I witnessed something that has remained with me.
A man and his family were sitting drinking hot chocolate and coffees when a woman and her child came in. They were identifiably Eastern European. The woman caught the man’s eye and asked him for some money. The man could easily have dismissed her. Indeed I am sure he has at times dismissed requests for money when they come from strangers. But this day he got up and asked her if she would like some coffee and she said yes.
There was a bit of a queue and while he and her were standing, the wee man that had come into the shop with her, brought up a bottle of Coke for the man to buy too. I saw the man’s daughters who were sitting with their hot chocolates baulk and say – “He is cheeky”! But he was only around four years old and had a cheeky little smile that would melt ice, and the man said yes.
Just as they got to the counter the woman asked the man if could she have soup instead. The man was happy to pay for soup and bread for her and the coke and a biscuit for the wee man.
He then sat down with his family and drank the rest of his coffee – which must have been nearly cold.
He and his family got up a few minutes later to leave and while he got up I saw the man notice that the woman was not taking the soup herself. She was blowing on the spoon and feeding the wee man the hot tomato soup. It was clear that this woman was, like so many women, putting the needs of her child above her own hunger. The man physically stopped. He and his wife then sought out more change to give to the woman so she could buy soup for herself. He brought over some money and gave it to her and returned to his chair to get his coat.
When he and his family were going out the door they realised the woman who was still feeding her child was weeping. He and his wife went over to her and embraced her. They had no more change to give her but tried to offer her reassurance and love. They didn’t know her story, but they didn’t need to.
As they left the shop the wife of the man who had stopped in his day to offer dignity and humanity to someone he didn’t know, put her hand in his hand and she looked up at him and smiled.
As I felt his hand hold mine I felt the same surge of emotion I felt when I first fell in love with that man 18 years ago. Our daughters had watched and learned something important from their father and they too paused in thought. We all walked away not needing to say another word.