There are these moments that I write about that make me pause, think, reflect and see the beauty that emerges in daily life. Moments that are always there when I slow down long enough to notice. Moments that emerge out of quiet observation and sometimes in the midst of the craziness of life. I’ve never counted them out, but today I will start to number those moments; those gifts that God places just so right and often squarely in front of me. I wonder if there will be 100 such moments by year end? Will there be hundreds? I’ll have to pay attention. I’ll have to let go of my own agenda. I’ll have to be still and take note.
He greets our trio cheerfully and smiles as we enter the Yolk restaurant on Michigan Ave. It is day two of our mid-week getaway to Chicago. Steve, Kylee and I are on our way to the Museum of Science and Industry. We are hungry. A leisurely, rainy, kind of snowing, really pretty cold, take the bus instead of walking Chicago morning; has us eating breakfast much later than usual. A woman server quickly seats us near the window and we observe foot and car traffic on Michigan Ave. We spy the Agora sculptures across the street in Grant Park and wonder why they have no heads. The three of us figure out what to order and what to drink and talk about our previous day and the day that looms ahead. Hot tea, orange juice and water land on our table and really good food soon follows. Really, really good breakfast food that makes you want to eat more for both lunch and dinner and then again for breakfast tomorrow morning. We eat. We talk some more and we begin our process to travel to the museum. A quick look out the window reveals rain and so planning begins on where to find the nearest bus stop, what bus number to take, and exactly when that bus will be coming. One of us escapes to the bathroom; two of us look for best routes. Three of us eventually move to the counter to pay and then near the door to continue our planning.
He speaks with us while we pay our bill. He thanks us for coming and then he quickly moves from behind the counter to help a customer, an elderly woman, out the door. I move to the side, Steve moves to the side, and Kylee follows. We are still in intense discussion. We three. It is still raining or snowing. Our discussion about which bus, where, and when, and the whole undertaking becomes a two person event and so I watch him help her.
He is in his twenties and she must be in her seventies. She uses a walker and there is a bit of vacantness in her eyes. She looks straight ahead determined to find her way outside as she slowly moves forward from the back of the restaurant. There is no smile on her face. There are no words that she utters. Her eyes do not meet his or mine or anyone else’s around her. She simply lifts and lowers the walker, takes a step in between, and repeats the pattern over and over again. He excuses himself as he makes his way from behind the counter and squeezes around the three of us. I see his plan and I think how kind of him. He wants to open the doors for her. A makeshift foyer has been created on the outside of the building and he quickly moves ahead of her and opens the first door. As she clears that door; he moves forward and opens the second door. In doing so, he has moved outside in that rainy, kind of snowy, really pretty cold kind of Chicago morning and he waits. He waits without coat or cover. He waits for this elder in her bright red coat to make her way through the second door and out into the city. Walker rises. Step. Walker lowers. Step. Slowly repeating the rhythm of forward movement. She never looks his way or utters a word. She is determined to get where she is going. Both exit doors almost mastered. Each step taking her closer to where she wants to be. He is equally determined to wait with her with door and heart open wide.
I’m thankful to be an observer of what is both good and a gift occurring in the space that encompasses us all. I smile inside and I send that same smile over to the two of them. I keep watching through the window as she continues on through the second door, out onto the sidewalk, and out into the cold and the rain. I watch as she passes him and I see him smile down at her. I watch as she passes him by without a look or a word. I keep on watching, but yet almost miss the moment when he ever so gently lifts the hood from the back of her bright red coat and covers her head. His job now done; he returns inside. He beams happiness from carrying out his act of kindness.
I shake his hand as he begins to squeeze by the three of us once again. I tell him he must of had a really good mom and how kind he was to have helped that woman. He thanks me and smiles again. Later, I ask for his name and I ask to take his picture and I ask if it okay to write about him and the moment with the elderly lady in the red coat. Shar Shareef tells me, “Sure”. He also tells me, “I just really love old people”. He writes his name on a torn out Guest Check found behind the counter of the Yolk restaurant; on a rainy, kind of snowy, really pretty cold day in Chicago. He hands that slip of paper to me and I am thankful for him, and kindness, and I’m really glad for this to be the moment I start to number.