He ate alone.

A friend and I were in a café eating Tater-Tots (really). Cold Tater-Tots actually. The food's not great but the people who work there are, so we go often. And sit at the same table.

One day a guy who looked like an acquaintance of mine walked in. And sat nearby. I thought it might even be the guy I sort of knew. So I was staring. But he looked bad, not enough like himself for me to be sure.

He spoke to me, because it was the guy. And we bantered back and forth a minute. He told us that it was his birthday and he was treating himself to a birthday breakfast.

We wished him a "happy birthday" and went back to our Tater-Tots and conversation. 

I thought about asking the acquaintance to join us but when I looked over to do it he had his eyes closed in what looked like deep prayer, so I left him alone.

Later in the day I went on his Facebook page to say that I'd wished I'd asked him to join us. And there I saw the notice that his son had died, the day before. Unexpectedly. At age 23.

And I'd missed the chance to sit with a grieving father who ate alone on his birthday, the day after his namesake died.

And that's not okay. 

New policy: err on the side of asking someone to join me. And let them, not me, decide.

May we never eat alone when we don't want to.

The One Amidst the Thousands

"The cattle on a thousand hills...." That phrase pummeled my brain as I drove for a month alone, day after day all over the country, a couple of years ago.

"Every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird of the mountains, and everything that moves in the field is Mine," is the actual reference, Psalm 50:10, 11.

When my car was a speck on the GPS screen, when the next turn I'd need to take was 595 miles away, I felt small, almost lost in a big world. 

And then I'd remember anew that the cattle on a thousand hills (over there... look at them!) are His. As am I.

Today I was thinking about a number of friends and acquaintances who are struggling, depressed or anxious, discouraged, lacking hope, wondering if they've been forgotten, wondering if God or anybody knows that they are floundering, drowning, not doing well. And it hit me again: the sad ones on a thousand couches in front of a thousand televisions are His.

The lonely ones who will pretend tonight ("Thank God it's Friday!" not withstanding) that they're having fun at a thousand different bars... well, they are His.

And the thousand men and women in flat marriages or abusive ones... they are His too. 

And yesterday I brainstormed entry-level jobs for a friend who's been homeless, who needs a break, who needs someone to take a risk on him in spite of the gaps on his resumé. And it's hard to imagine that a great prospect will open up and his entire life will change. Maybe, but probably not. Yet the homeless in a thousand shelters are His. He's got it all.

Not that we can't and shouldn't join in and try to help. Not that our heart shouldn't ache in solidarity. But ultimately God's got it all -- cattle, birds, us.

We are His.