Waiting on the Porch with Strangers
Updated: Dec 18, 2022
I picked up some barbecue from a local restaurant this past week.
It’s a hole-in-the-wall that opens at 11 am and usually sells out by 2 pm. They make no bones about how they will close as soon as the meat is gone.
When I arrived at 10:50 am, there was already a short line. They are THAT GOOD!
At 10:59 am, they opened their doors. There were now several people behind me waiting for their goodies.
Because of this not-so-lovely continuing plague, each person entered one at a time, some with masks and others without.
That left most of us waiting outside, just fine as it was a gorgeous fall day, filled with sunny skies and warm temperatures.
One woman fidgeted. She seemed overly nervous. She asked me how long I thought this would take as she had left someone waiting in the car.
A man complained that the website had not updated and they “better have brisket” today.
Three mid-twenties “guys,” looking like they just rolled out of bed, chatted about how much they loved working from home.
I was in a good mood and thrilled not to have to be cooking for the company we had invited over for dinner. My face was filled with smiles as I waited to order.
But my mind was churning.
What made this woman so nervous? Was the person in the car a child? A demanding, abusive spouse? Why was she in such a hurry? I felt sad for her.
What was the deal with the “Negative Ned” (the name I made up for him)? Why was he being such a jerk? This is a small business in a local town and he just “had to say something?” I felt pretty angry about him.
Where did these young fellas work, the ones in their sweats with bedhead? Did their bosses know that they were out-and-about? How fun for them to be getting lunch with their friends and working from home! Are they getting paid for this? I felt pretty confused about them.
As I drove away, the smell of pulled pork and brisket wafting through my car, I couldn’t stop thinking about this group of humans lined up outside on a small porch at 11 am, all waiting for the SAME thing.
Yet, we were all so DIFFERENT.
Coming from different places.
Feeling different things.
In different spaces.
Inside and out.
And it struck me.
No matter where we go or who we are with or what we are doing, we bring ourselves.
What’s going on in our life.
What’s happening inside our hearts.
Good or bad, happy or sad, annoyed or kind, fearful or at peace (yada yada yada).
Other people, even strangers standing in line and small business owners trying to serve up some finger-licking-good eats, reap the “rewards.”
I just happened to have had a good night of sleep, a full belly from my smoothie and an evening ahead with friends to look forward to.
I was rested, fed and loved.
Maybe that’s why I was all smiles and “in a good mood,” something the porch-waiters and shopkeepers benefitted from.
But the others?
I’m not sure.
Where were they coming from?
Were they rested, fed and loved?
I emptied my wares into the fridge, my husband helping me. I chatted away about the people in line.
He reminded me of a quote by Richard Rohr, “If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.”
Yes to that. YES. YES. YES.
That has happened both FROM me and TO me.
A few minutes later, I hunkered down in my office, thoughts continuing to swirl.
This time, something Jesus said came to me. “Out of the heart, the mouth speaks.”
Yes to that. YES. YES. YES.
What happens on the outside comes from the inside. Always.
I said a quick prayer on my futon, knowing I could have been any of those folks on any given day.
“God, grant me the goodness that I need on the inside. Help me to fight for it. Help me to receive it. Help me to give it to others on the outside.”
Even when standing on porches in small towns waiting with strangers.