Some days I am amazed at the thought that every person started out innocent while longing to be accepted and loved by someone. There is so much sin that sometimes you forget that there is any good out there. I have countless stories of when I have run into people who are so bitter and angry that I am convinced that they have never loved, have ever wanted to be loved or are lovable for that matter.
A couple summers ago, Imago Dei joined a competition called The 48 Hour Film Fest. Organizations and non-profits from all over the city of Portland came to compete. The teams gathered their own cameras, created their own scripts, found their own shooting location AND had only 48 hours to create a short film going off of a specific topic. Imago were given the theme horror.
My friend Jan called me up around 11pm begging me to find coffee and bring it to their shooting location. The writers of the script where getting tired and they had over 24 hours to go! She lovingly gave me the title of “coffee bitch” which drove my ego sky high. I drove all over Portland trying to find a coffee shop that was open. You would think that of all places Portland would have something! After much searching, I finally gave in to the 76 gas station by Trader Joe’s. I walked in to find a little man behind the counter. He couldn’t speak English very well but understanding that I wanted coffee, he pointed toward the back. As I was filling up six large coffee cups, the front door to the store opened and a group of about 4-5 guys came in. Now I don’t want to be judgmental but these guys were not the kind of guys that you would want to meet in a back alley….especially at night. They started shouting at the man across the counter and pulling snacks off the shelves and onto the floor. I quickly turned to face the wall and started praying that they wouldn’t see me.
I was almost done filling up the second to last cup when another group of guys entered the store. It was obvious that the two groups didn’t like each other. They started pushing each other around the store while using profanity. They probably would have tried to kill each other right then and there but the man at the counter told them to take their fight outside. So they did. They took it outside and started fighting a few feet from the front door.
I had to get out of there. If I could just sneak out of the store and pass the group of men outside without them noticing me, I would be fine. I went up to pay for my coffee just as the man at the counter was getting off the phone with the police. In hard-to-understand English, he asked if I wanted him to walk me to my car. I didn’t trust any man at that moment and instead had mental images of this sweet old man at the counter pushing me into my trunk and driving away. I’m dramatic like that.
“No, I’ll be fine. Thank you.” I wasn’t so sure I would be fine so I prayed that God would cover me with His protection and make me invisible to the men outside throwing fists and words. I knew God would get me safely to my car so, in all confidence, I opened the door and walked out with my 6 cups of coffee stacked on top of each other. I wasn’t more then five feet from the door when I tripped on the curb and lost control of my coffee cups. They fell to the ground, spraying coffee all over the curb as well as all over myself. A coffee cup top even rolled so far as to reach the fight scene and stopped at one of the men’s shoes. At that moment, the fighting came to a halt and I could feel every head turn and look toward my direction. When I thought that it was the end of me, I observed the strangest, most beautiful thing. Every one of the men outside humbly walked over to where I was and started picking up my spilled coffee cups for me. “Here you go, ma’am” they all politely said. I walked back into the station to refill the cups (which the nice man at the counter let me do for free) and by the time I was ready to leave the store for the second time, the men outside had started their fighting all over again. This time I did’t feel so unsafe and walked quietly passed the group and to my car.
As I drove away, my thoughts were focused on what had just happened. I wondered if those boys had moms or grandmas who had thought them to respect women. I wondered if they saw violence and for them that was how they knew to communicate. I tried to picture them as little boys wanting to be snuggled by their mom or wrestling with their father figure…if they had one. Either way, I was blessed by their reaction to my accident with the coffee cups. I judged too freely and was quickly shown that it’s possible for every one to have a little bit of good in them.
I will admit, however, I did check my trunk before driving out of the parking lot. My grandma would have been proud.