Time and again, I’m reminded of the preciousness of people, places and times. It’s funny because in the business of health care, “people, place and time” are indicators of whether or not someone is “oriented.” And you know – that’s more true than we know.
For me “being oriented” speaks to what matters most to me. People. Places. Times.
Not all that long ago, my friend, Jackie and I used to meet most Wednesdays late in the afternoon. We would meet at Evans Fine Foods. Each time my friend Jackie and I would set a date to meet for cobbler, my heart was oh, so happy. Well, just to be clear I ordered cobbler, and Jackie seemed to have a taste for the Brownie Delight. It’s all good.
Jackie and I have known one another for 20 years or more. We met as fellow sisters in the fight against HIV. Back in the day before protease inhibitors our paths crossed. We met in those dark days when so many of the folks we cared for were dying. In those days people mattered, places mattered, time truly mattered. At her retirement party not long ago, I said “let’s meet at Evans sometime,” and started doing just that.
There was such a comfort for my soul when she and I set a date with one another. It was as though our souls put flags on a hill up ahead, and in doing that, we held a place for one another. In the hustle and bustle of our days, I was so very grateful for this time we would set. Some may say it was for the iced tea and cobbler, and don’t get me wrong that was part of the truth. But the greater part of the truth was the joy I felt when I saw my friend’s face across the table. We would catch one another up on stories, of what had happened since the last time we’d talked. Little-everyday-things like hearing about Jackie’s invitation to the White House to honor her HIV work – that was a pretty great story. But you know what always topped her list was talking about her grands. Stories to tell – with laughter and tender, wet eyes. Jackie and I didn’t bring an agenda. We set a date, and saved a place for one another. That simple, and that precious. It was a time to let go and catch up. It was a time for listening with our hearts.
Everyone needs a place where they can save a place for a friend. Evans Fine Foods had for years been that spot for me. It was one of those rare places where hearts were given time to catch up with one another. My family and friends have been sharing a table there for years. Most Wednesdays our waitperson, Pam served our spirits as well cobbler. There was something just fine when someone smiled my way when I walked into the restaurant. There was something just fine when I sat down at a table and before I knew it, an un-sweet iced tea and a smile or hug would appear – without my needing to ask. There was something so fine in this crazy, hustling-bustling days when someone looked at me with smiling eyes and asked, “how about the usual today”?
Using the past tense as I describe Evans continues to break my heart. The restaurant closed not too long ago. Many of us regulars are much like wandering pilgrims trying to make sense of the world. We seem to have lost our compass. If you know of a place that has the feeling “come on in, and rest your weary, sweet self,” please let me know.
Setting a date, saving a place has become a life-giving, spiritual practice. It marks time for me, so that I can connect with kind souls and re-connect with myself. It gives my heart something to look forward to. It matters because it reminds me of the value of hopeful anticipation. People. Place. Time. Holding a friend’s hand, holding a friend’s story. This is one of my favorite things and it makes life worth living – each time.
Working in Family Experience at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, 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.