Doug is in his fifties, has a voice that rasps from too many cigarettes and prison ink all over his arms. He comes through the drive thru a couple times a day with a huge smile on his face and an encouraging word for whoever it is that makes his iced white mocha with whipped cream and caramel sauce drizzled on top. I first met him two years ago when he came through the shop and handed me a cup from a different coffee stand, apologizing for being a disloyal customer and assuring me that our coffee tastes better.
"I was on the other end of town for a Bible study so I stopped there. The only thing that I liked is that they wrote my name on the cup. See?" He pointed to the scrawled "Dougie" in sharpie marker.
I dug a sharpie out of the drawer under the cash register and wrote "Dougie" on his mocha and added a smiley face.
I've worked in the coffee shop for days or weeks at a time, with months and years in between. The faces and drinks of the regulars have come and gone, but Doug's remains the same.
This afternoon he breezed into the sit-down bakery and coffee shop. "What's the Word for today, sunshine?" he asked me. (Lately we've been sharing back and forth what we'd been reading and learning and meditating on. This ongoing discussion started when we were chatting about the guys he was meeting at the shop to mentor for the alcohol and prison recovery program he's working with.)
His question gave me a pause, because I speak Christian-ese well enough that I can always answer a question of that nature, but for some reason I couldn't put on a face for this man.
"Well truthfully Doug, I had a crazy morning, and never cracked open my Bible at all."
I cringed as those words came out of my mouth. Mentally I berated myself. "Come on, Merrie! You've memorized enough verses. You've stored up a stockpile of insights and analogies. You can give him a better answer than that!"
The truth hurts to admit, (probably because I care so much about the image and the reputation I've built for myself.) but Doug didn't blink an eye like I would've. Didn't sniff or look down his nose like I've done. Didn't preach at or reject me. He just loved me like Jesus loves me. Accepted me, with my faults and imperfections.
Right now I'm humbled. Right now I'm thinking that I haven't been such a big-hearted person as I thought I was. Right now I'm realizing that a recovered addict/ex-convict is living more like Jesus than I, a born-and-raised-in-the-church Christian. This morning I thought I was a pretty big deal, but right now I'm thinking it might be better to be "one of the least of these."