I've had time for a social life lately. This has been amazing. In the midst of that, I've had much more time to spend in the Lower East Side. This has provided opportunity after opportunity to try new places, see new faces, and really plug into the neighborhood of my beloved church. It has also made me have a strong itch to move into the area. This is one of my most recent prayers: that God would provide a way for me to have affordable housing near Graffiti, as I have really, more than ever, seen the importance lately of living near my church. I'm starting to see people we minister to out and about, and have also had the opportunity to open up conversation with some folks who are really interested in what goes on there. It's been beautiful.
Tonight, I had an experience that really shook up the way I feel about what I do at Graffiti, in a good way.
Mackenzie and I had decided to spend the night shopping for cupcakes and visiting Chris at work, but when we met up after my super-awesome mani/pedi/massage time, she was hungry for dinner. Me, having just had my nails done, and knowing we were going for both cupcakes and ice cream, suggested we get something cheap and light.
We ended up at the neighborhood favorite, Odessa. I've been there a thousand times, and each time I love how it makes me feel at home. How I feel like I have a place where the faces are familiar and the food is comfortable.
After ordering our dinner, in walked Eddie. Eddie is a guy who is at Graffiti's Wednesday Night Meal every week, and has been since long before I was at Graffiti. If he goes missing for a little while, I make sure I give him a hard time about it. We tease each other often. As he sat down, I shouted across the diner, "Hey Eddie, are you in here to cause trouble?" He turned and made some sarcastic remark I couldn't make out (Eddie is sometimes really hard to understand). We talked across the restaurant a few more times during dinner, making jokes, cutting up.... At one point, I saw him pointing at me and Mackenzie and whispering something to the waiter . I joked, "Eddie, what on earth kinda trouble you trying to start??? Who you telling that guy about us??!!"
"Aww hush," he responded. "Nothing, I'm not telling him nothing."
I found myself at one point wondering "Hmm, maybe it'd be nice if we paid for Eddie's dinner, I mean, he comes to our free meals and those sorts of things, it might be nice to cover his check for him." Judgmental of me, I guess, assuming that eating out was probably something he couldn't afford to do. After all, it's really not something I could afford to do.
As Eddie stood up to leave, Mackenzie and I were still waiting on the waiter to bring us our bill. She had slipped away for a second, and Eddie turned to me and said "Don't you worry about your food, neither of you, I got it covered." Puzzled, I looked at him and said, "huh?" (like I said, sometimes Eddie's hard to understand).
"I said, both of you, your meal is paid for, don't worry about it."
As he walked out the door, I looked at the waiter and said "Did that guy just buy us dinner?"
"Yeah, he did," said the man at the counter.
All these years of ministering to this person, and on a night when I was worried about dinner because I'd spent my money on something frivolous (mani/pedi/massage, remember?), he buys me a meal. My heart was bursting. I cannot believe that here I was, worried about him paying for his own bill, then worried about mine, and he covered both. It's amazing how God takes the little things we do and turns them into blessings.
Lots of people have bought me food over the years. Many times, it has been meaningful, and at times of need, but no meal that was purchased for my by any other person has ever meant as much as this one.