I am sitting here in a coffee shop, and I am overcome by the odor coming from this old man. I watch him bring in his small metal cart settling into a spot. His pants are held up with a section of old rope. His gray hair is unwashed and his jacket is heavily soiled. It is not the first time I have seen him, as he seems to come here about once a week. Same outfit, same spot, and same actions. Holding the rope tighter he approaches the counter to order. He orders a sandwich and slides a lid over the hot cup of coffee. He settles in his chair, and begins to enjoy his sandwich. The first time I saw him a few weeks ago, I noticed that he wears bright pink earplugs, and he orders his food as to require zero communication.
Soon the jazz pianist for the evening comes in the door and begins to set up to play and he immediately takes out the earplugs. He then got up and moved to the tip jar by the piano. Digging in his pockets he pulls out a $5 bill neatly straightened and places it on the side of the jar. He gently pats the jar, and returns to his seat. As the woman begins to play, another customer asks the man a question about moving his cart. He was frustrated and ended any conversation when he answered: “I’m just here to see my daughter play, that’s all”, immediately turning his back to watch the woman play, placing his hand over the earplugs lying on the table. As she played he beamed. She gently smiled now and then towards him, and every time someone placed a little green in that jar, he just tilted his head back smiling wider.
When he first entered the coffee shop, I watched others cringe at his appearance, and it is hard not to watch. I could tell that not very many people had seen him here before, so few knew that he always, well in the few times I have seen him, orders a sandwich. But it did not matter that he is a patron, or that he invaded no one’s space. It’s just that he did not fit. It’s as if “less than” seemed to be the definition posted above his head. But as I watch him enjoying every note of the music, and for the first time the earplugs were removed, I saw something different. Contentment, and honestly, love. Tonight, he did not ask anyone for anything, he did not even talk to the woman playing. He just beamed with total joy. The strange part is, the other people had somehow decided with their looks and body language that this man did not deserve to be there, and love was far from anyone’s mind when it came to him. Even my reaction was not as I wish it to be. Yet we missed it. His love was bold, and so was his joy.
I did not even see him concerned about his appearance, nor the stares or comments of others. He had a purpose, a gift to give, even if it was to acquire the best seat in the house, and place the first bill in the jar. I'm not sure if that woman really is his daughter, and it does not matter, for the connection between them still exists. She did not seem to care who he was, she loves that he enjoys her playing, and he loves seeing her smile. And they both seem to be immune to all the other chaos in the coffee shop tonight.
Watching that man has me thinking. We have purpose. It may not always be as clear as we like, but you have something to give that no one else can. Not a single soul in that coffee shop could do what he did. It was not about the five dollars or the best seat, it was his unique spirit giving love freely.
As I am finishing this article, I got a phone call. A friend of mine, who I had not heard from in a while, called to share that she was going to shift jobs. The thing is that it was not just about finding a new job, it was about a necessary healing. This friend has had a heavy cloud on her life for a while, not sure you would see it, but as someone who knows her closely, it is there. And yet this phone call was different. That cloud was gone, and as she shared her story, there was one remark that got me: "I have been serving everyone else, just never myself. Time for me!" The talk quickly shifted to following your own unique spark, creating art, and following passions. And all that fear, frustration, and talk of not being “good enough” never entered the conversation.
This friend is on a healing journey, but finding sources to validate worth and love are no longer the focus - living out that unique spark that beats only in her chest has now replaced the misguided focus before.
And as I spoke about previously, I am not sure we ever lose that need to want to be loved, after all it is also what brings people together, but constantly looking outward for the source is something we could stand to lose.
You are the only one of YOU we got! There will never be another person with the spark and energy alive in your heart. You either let it flow, shine brilliantly, and fill every ounce of the world you touch, or it will be lost to us all. We are not allowed to always see how our spark will play out, or for how long and where, but we are given the beating in our chest to remind us we are here, uniquely here. Play out who you are and the clouds lift.
Relationships with humans will wobble, gnash at our fiber, fail, and leave us wondering, but that spark in us burns on. I know you see it. It begs for air. YOU are valued and deeply loved because you are here! You are alive for a purpose only you can fill. There is no greater value, and the love, tell that heart of yours that this moment of doubt has no space, for you are going to love it right out.
DO something for YOU. Breathe in your gifts and then get to exhaling them right out.
Sparks of unique light....amazing aren't they?!
~Heidi Rickard, Creative Director for The Authenticity Project.