Monday, April 30, 2012

One Balmy Night on Greenville Avenue

At a restaurant on lower Greenville Avenue this Sunday, I eyed the Blue Goose Cantina across the street as I ate lunch with a group of people.

It’s hard to believe almost 30 years have passed since I last set foot in that Dallas eatery. I remember that evening so vividly from three decades ago when mobile phones were the size of a man’s shoe. I was a young newlywed at the time.

Greenville Avenue sidewalks were packed that night with foot traffic. Music filtered from the bars and restaurants. The smell of sizzling beef fajitas added to the nighttime ambience. Laughter overflowed in abundance.

A photograph taken later in the evening outside the Blue Goose shows my skin a sun-kissed, golden brown. I’m wearing a red Mexican dress embroidered with colorful flowers. You know, the kind of stitching that adorns touristy clothes made across the border? I'd bought it while honeymooning in Cancun only a few months earlier. I don’t recall if I decided to wear that outfit simply because we were eating at a Mexican restaurant. But who knows. Maybe I really did plan it that way.

In another photo, one of the men wears sunglasses just like the Blues Brothers wore. He clenches a fat cigar between his teeth. My husband makes a ‘v’ with two fingers above that friend’s head. In a third snapshot, all six of us are smiling as wide as the Grand Canyon.

I’m blessed with such a fond memory filled with laughter on that balmy night so long ago. It was a time of happy innocence.

I’ve lost touch with two of the people in that picture. The other couple moved away, but at least I’ve kept up with them over the years. And that dark-haired guy I married? Well, I’ll save that for another blog post.

You can never go back and recapture those moments. But I wonder if those long-ago friends remember that night with fondness like I do.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Parking Spot Romance

Dear Mr. Toyota in space 26,

I realize I’m a cute little thing and all the cars in the parking garage want to be near me. I am also fully aware of the competition between you and the green Honda in space 24 vying for my attention. Seeing who can get closest to me without going over the white parking line has gotten a bit ridiculous. It has got to stop!

At times, I’ve accidentally banged my door into your side. I’m sure you thought I was flirting with you. However, I did not mean to lead you on. It was truly an accident because you and Mr. Honda have given me no space in your quest to capture my heart.

I like you both, but I’m not in the market for any new romance at this time.

I am trying to let you down gently, but for the record I want you to know that I’m attracted to big guys such as Ford trucks. They’re so manly!


The cute little Mazda Miata in space 25

The Stewpot Patrons

Older folks shuffle slowly behind their metal walkers. Younger adults enter with headphone wires snaking down their necks and disappearing beneath clothing. Others carry garbage bags filled with their only possessions.

My task this day is to ladle a spoonful of beans on these clients’ plates. Within forty-five minutes, three vats that once held the steaming lentils are empty, taken away and replaced by a staff member.

Twice a week at lunchtime in downtown Dallas, I help out at the Second Chance CafĂ© located in a homeless assistance center and run by The Stewpot. Those without a roof over their head are guaranteed a hot meal two times a day, seven days a week here. For an hour and a half on both days, I get to serve others instead of dwelling on my current situation—searching for a job.

“Thank you for coming,” a raspy-voiced woman says to the food servers. “We appreciate it.”

And they really do.

Several people coming through the doors are whom many Americans expect to see in such a place: the senior citizen with unkempt hair and sunken lips; the patron with bloodshot eyes placing one foot in front of the other as if trying to pass a sobriety test; and the person scoffing when a helper tries to hand a food tray to her—a sure sign of some mental disorder.

A man small in stature pulls down the bill of his ball cap as if trying to hide the massive abrasion now scabbed over on the side of his face. Another enters the building with a shiner below his cracked eyeglass lens and a blanket wrapped around his shoulders. The situations they face each day in their dog-eat-dog world rip my heart wide open.

Then there are the clients that surprise me: the twenty-something with a computer satchel slung over his shoulder; the lady with beautiful ebony skin and manicured nails; and the silver-haired gentleman who looks as though he should be sitting in a plush leather chair in a corner office instead of a plastic seat in a soup kitchen.

These are the faces of the homeless. With their bellies filled, they make their way out of the building and back to the streets.

The Bible makes it clear Jesus wants us to help the poor and feed the hungry. As a youngster, compassion for the downtrodden tugged at my heart. Now, serving the homeless satisfies that deep desire to do something for the less fortunate—it just took me decades to figure that out.

My life feels in balance just knowing I’ve touched others with the love of Christ one meal at a time.

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’”  – Matthew 25:37-40 NKJV