Sunday, October 3, 2010

Jim, Part II

Jim came into the store today.

After taking a break from Jamba Juice over the summer, I’m back once again. Back to the world of blenders, frozen fruit, fresh OJ, sticky shoes and sore hands. It feels like old times again; many of my friends still work there, the smoothies are the same, and my customers get excited when they see me again.

I had missed Jim over the summer and, when I’d drive down Fulton Ave and see him slowly trudging along the sidewalk, I’d worry about him. How was he? Were they making his coffee like he liked it? And more importantly, where was he sleeping? Was he hungry? Was he okay?

I was the pre-closer today, and as I scrubbed on the orange juice machine, I heard the door open and I suddenly smelled Jim. Turning around, juice-filled rag dripping in my hand, I found Jim wearing new faux-aviator glasses he had found. “Someone left them on a table”, he said, pointing outside. “I waited for a couple hours, but I think they look better on I’m borrowing them.”
You look dashing”, I replied.

Jim was wearing the same clothes he had worn the day I left, back in June. They were a bit more tattered now, with new stains and holes in the knees. He wanted a coffee, but he only had a dollar. “I’m not sure why I’m here”, he mumbled, “I only have a dollar....”, and he turned to leave, embarrassment rising beneath his scruffy beard.
I rang him up for free. Not sure how I’ll explain that one to my manager yet, but I’ll come up with something. His eyes watered and he smiled. “I missed you”, he whispered.

There were other customers to serve, smoothies to be made, and a manager to dodge, so I had to leave him with his coffee. Some fifteen minutes or so later, as he wiped down his corner of the bench and thew away his cup, he waved me over. As I approached, he struggled to pull something out of his patchy leather wallet. A photograph. Dirty, wrinkled fingers held out a picture of a chubby baby laughing, blond curls playing ‘round his ears. “He’s my grandson”, Jim beamed at me. “I’ve never met him. I had an ugly divorce when his dad was 16...I haven’t been allowed to talk to my son since. I don’t know how old the baby is now...or where they live. But this is him. He’s my grandson.”

Jim’s visit made me realize two very different things.
First, if someday, when I’m a doctor, I can do something for a patient to earn the kind of smile Jim smiled at me today, all those medical school loans will be worth it. Every single cent just for that smile.
Second, I realized how incredibly fortunate and blessed I am. I have a family who loves me, a place to go home to, a snack to eat before bed, clothes to change into, a toothbrush and a comb.
Life is so hard for many, many people...including Jim. I am so incredibly loved and blessed. God truly does have me in the palm of His hands.