It really is a journey that we’re on. All through life, we interact with so many different people. Some of them come just for a bit and make our lives better. Some come into our hearts and stay. And those are the times when we are truly blessed.
Some of the best friends are the ones who have and you can't seem to remember when you first met. It's as though you've known them your whole life. Those are the friends who have crossed our paths and we've know in our heart-of-hearts that our life's journey has been changed for the better. We know that we have been changed for good.
Martha Gibson is one of those friends for me. She works at Evans as a server. She's done it for more than 30 years. Her feet and knees will wear out long before her heart ever does. Through the years I've known her, she has been the best pastor I've ever had.
Martha has a way of welcoming us all. I've watched as she has been kind to those who appear to have power and privilege, and she shows the same kindness to those who don't. She pushes through her aches and pains, through her own hard-times to help make our times better. She serves grits with a butter-smile in the center (thanks to Myko, our chef) and always asks if there's anything else she can get for you. Can you imagine that? In this day and age when so many of us are racing in two directions at once, there stands Martha day-after-day, plate-after-plate asking if there's anything else we need.
And when it comes down to it, more often than not her kind and gracious attention is just what we've needed all along.
I think I've witnessed this best as I've watched her with the men in my life. Our boys, Brogan, now 6'1"+ and Sam, 5'11" each started out as centerpieces at Evans at one time or another. Early on, each of the boys would be laid out in the center of the table while we ate our meals. As babies Martha hugged and loved on them, and she continues to do it every time they come to the restaurant (although now she needs to stand on her tiptoes to get her their hugs). And she was so very kind to Dad. My father lived for 19 years with Alzheimer's, his final decade here in Atlanta. As his disease progressed it was harder and harder for him to go out to eat. His world seemed to grow ever smaller. But our family continued to bring him to Evans until his last few months. And every time he walked in and Martha was working, she seemed to make a point of coming over and giving him a big hug. Five years have passed since his death and I can still see the look on Dad's face during Martha's bear hugs. He was safe. He was known by someone who cared so much for him. He still mattered.
Martha's path has crossed mine. We were strangers once a long time ago, but because angels are always nudging us, somewhere on the journey she and I have become friends. I've learned a lot about compassion from her over the years, and I've eaten way too many pancakes. And along the way thanks to those angels, I have been blessed to call Martha my friend.
Working as a Hospice Chaplain, Lesley is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. A Candler School of Theology graduate, Lesley has just published her second book, Grief and the Psalms: Companioning the Moon for 29 Days (available on this website). She and her partner, Linda Ellis are raising their two sons, Brogan and Sam in Decatur, GA.