I originally posted this story on July 29, 2010.
I pulled off of the interstate at a non-descript crossroads town near the Louisiana-Mississippi state line. It was nearing the noon hour and I was quite ready for lunch. I spied a Waffle House and that promised to be a quick, inexpensive solution to my hunger.
The cries of "Helloooo" echoed through the eatery as I entered. A small booth in the back was the perfect spot for me to eat while observing the comings and goings of the broad spectrum of patrons.
It was surprising that there were only a few customers present. Usually, at that time of day, Waffle Houses are pulsing with activity. I ordered a patty melt and relaxed in the relative quiet.
By and by, the door opened and a man entered. I would not have paid much attention, except for the fact that he stopped just inside the door and just stood there, looking down at the floor. He was dressed in what looked to be clean, if worn, clothing. He had a beard that needed trimming, and hair that was about three weeks past due for a haircut. One of the waitresses invited the man in, and motioned for him to take a seat.
In a low voice, while staring at the floor, the man asked if there might be any leftovers. He added, "I don't have any money to pay for it."
The waitress turned to the manager, who was also the cook, and told him the situation. The manager eyed the man, and said, "Sit down, sir---I'll give you a little something to get you on your way". The man timidly perched on a barstool at the counter.
He was served a waffle with syrup, a bowl of grits and a glass of water. The man was very meek and courteous, saying "thank you", and "I really appreciate this".
When he had finished, the waitress told the man that one of the other patrons had offered to pay for anything else he might want to eat. He stammered, "Who should I thank?" But the waitress said she could not tell him that, but he was free to order anything more that he might want. All he could think of was another bowl of grits and more water, which the waitress brought him. He thanked her again.
When he finished eating, he rose and quietly asked the waitress if it would be all right if he used the restroom. She told him of course it would be OK.
When the man came out of the restroom, he shuffled past my booth. I extended my hand to him as he passed me. He looked at me with a quizzical expression. In my hand was a $5 bill. "Oh, I couldn't take that", he whispered. I said "Yes---this is for you. Remember that Jesus loves you".
I thought I saw tears welling up in his eyes. "Thank you, sir", he murmured appreciatively, as he took the currency and backed to the door.
As he exited the restaurant, I arose to pay my bill. The waitress said to me, "That was a wonderful thing you did. God will bless you for that".
I told her that God has ALREADY blessed me beyond reason.
Leaving the Waffle House shortly after the man had departed, I looked for him to see where he was going. But he had mysteriously vanished.
Since that day, I think of that man often. And I sometimes wonder if God was testing all of us in that restaurant that day.