I ran into my neighbour the other day at Starbucks. He lives alone and has been on government assistance because of a disability for most of his life. I have wondered how he makes ends meet, especially with the recent increase in food prices.
“Have seat,” he said and pushed a chair toward me. “Been shopping?”
“Yeah. I can’t believe how much these fruits and vegetables cost.” I took off my loaded backpack and sat down.
“They sure are expensive,” he said. In our conversation I learned where he shopped to get the best deals. “I eat pretty simply–oatmeal for breakfast, beans, rice and vegetables for supper.”
“What’s the highlight of your week?”
He smiled. “My roast chicken dinner Fridays and coming here for coffee. I like getting out; I meet some pretty interesting people.”
“You know, if you register your Starbucks card, you get free coffee on your birthday.”
“At Christmas, I got a bunch of coffee cards from my family and one from a friend at church. His note said, ‘You’re always making coffee for us, I thought you might enjoy drinking some yourself.’ I thought the card might have ten dollars on it. But it had fifty! I could hardly believe it. Between him and my family, I’m set for the year.”
As I got up to go, I remembered to tell him where he could get Cobs bread for free on Saturday mornings.
“They make good bread,” he said. “But, on Saturday mornings, I like to go out for coffee then treat myself to lunch, so I don’t think I will. But thanks for telling me about it.”
I offered to save some for him the next time Fred and I were asked to pick it up.
“I like the seedy loaf.” But after he thought more about it, he said, “That’s okay. I likely wouldn’t be able to eat it before it goes bad. I would have already bought the bread I need for the week, and I only have a small freezer in my fridge. But, I’ll keep it in mind.”
He hugged me goodbye. “Peace be with you,” he said.
“And with you.”
Half way home I realized: I had just assumed that because my neighbour is on Disability, he doesn’t have enough and could use my help to get more. But he is at peace with his life and generously shares that peace with me.
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding and my entire will
–all that I have and call my own.
You have given it all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours, do with it as you will.
Give me only your love and your grace.
That is enough for me.
–Ignatius of Loyola
∗ ∗ ∗
Erik is a father of two young boys. He has been a stay-at-home dad for five years. I asked him if he enjoyed it. “Oh, yes. I love it,” he said. “Sure, my wife and I miss the old days when we had more money and just did whatever we wanted. But it’s all right; we have enough.” Erik and his family have discovered: when we are content with what we have, there’s more time for those we love.