Today I stopped at a buffet restaurant for lunch. For some reason I noticed the gentleman behind me in line. He had a large blue bag with him, and waited patiently as we went through the line. He had snow white hair that flowed to his collar. He walked with a slow shuffle and had stooped and rounded shoulders. However, when he looked up his face was free of lines and wrinkles, and he appeared to be much younger than I initially thought. Like I frequently do with people, I found myself wondering what his story is.
I selected my table, put my drink and receipt on it, and left for the salad line. When I came back I noticed that he had taken a table about three tables down from me. He carefully set his bag on the two chairs opposite of where he was going to sit. I watched as he laid a napkin on the chair he would be using, and then proceeded to lay out several napkins on his side of the table. He stepped back slightly to look at them and then rearranged them to make sure they were all straight. He moved one of the chairs to another table so that only the chair he would be sitting on remained on his side of the table. From his blue bag he picked up a hinged metal frame that looked similar to a license plate frame and set it carefully on the table. He then proceeded to put his hardback book on the frame, carefully marking his place in the book.
For some reason, I found myself fascinated with watching him as he clearly had his routine memorized. He rearranged the condiments and put them to the side of the table. He took two napkins, one in each hand, and went to the salad bar, picking up the plate with his napkins. He came back with a plate filled with cottage cheese and cherry tomatoes. The tomatoes had been stacked in a perfect circle on top of the cottage cheese. He then took two new napkins and returned to the salad bar. This time he had a plate full of salad fixings which he carefully placed on the table. Then he took two more napkins, picked up the next plate and returned with the lettuce. He took his knife and fork and cut his lettuce into bite sized pieces and then added it to the top of the plate of salad fixings.
He never sat down the entire time he was arranging his meal. In the meantime, twenty minutes have passed and I have practically finished my entire meal. I tried to keep from obviously watching him because I did not want to make him uncomfortable, but I was so intrigued by the whole process.
You have probably come to the conclusion, (as I did) that this man probably suffers from OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). I felt compassion for the man, and wondered how difficult his life must be because he was so different from most of the diners there. They, like me, just selected a table, picked up a plate, filled it, and then proceeded to eat without all of the forethought and protections he put in place.
I wondered how hard it must have been for him to actually come to a restaurant to eat. I questioned if he had family, a home, a job, or any semblance of a normal life. I speculated that it must be very difficult for him and the ones who love him, to deal with the foibles of an OCD personality. I wish I could tell you that the man and I had a wonderful conversation and I learned about his life, but I cannot.
But I can tell you this. I know with a surety that God loves him in the same way he loves me. I truly believe God has great compassion and love for the outcast, the forlorn, the homeless, the lonely, and the mentally ill. And I believe, he is asking us as Christians, to have that same kind of love for others. So often we forget that Jesus has asked us to step outside of our comfort zones and love those who we consider to be unlovable. Today as I watched the man at lunch, I was reminded of that fact.
I was reading in Luke today and ran across this passage: “Then Jesus said to his host, ‘when you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.'” – Luke 14:12-14 (NIV)