Tuesday, February 26, 2008

An Example of Grace

I should have live blogged this on Sunday night, but I was so busy minding my own business (shameless self-promotion link) that all I could do was eavesdrop. I was sitting at a table in Starbucks, uploading photos and checking in on your blogs, including all video links (this link being one of the most riveting clips I've seen in a long time ;-). It stinks not having a high-speed connection at home and no, the free air time at Starbucks has not begun yet, but I was too lazy to pick up and go elsewhere by the time I realized this.

Anyway, the point of this post is that a cute young 20-year old college co-ed walked in with her text books. She ordered hot tea and sat down in one of the big cushy chairs near me. As she started studying, a paunchy, gravelly voiced, slovenly dressed, almost elderly man approached to sit in the big cushy chair next to her (I would later learn that he is only 62 which isn't elderly, but he was not a well cared for 62-year-old). I have to say that I pre-judged both of these people. I fully expected the "old" man to sit down, pick up a paper and generally mind his own business. I expected the 20-year old to steer clear of any engagement in conversation with the old man.

Instead, the old man pulled out his i-Phone (I know!) and started a conversation with her, starting out with "do you watch basketball?" "No, not really." Okay, fine, I thought. Conversation over, as he appeared to turn on his i-phone and watch basketball (at least that's what he implied he was doing). But no...

It continued...

Next ensued a long string of probing questions, starting out with "so, what do you do?" And when she responded with "...work, school and church activities..." he probed further..."where do you live?" (answer) "Where do you work?" (answer) "Where do you go to school?" (answer) Maybe it's my family's involvement in law enforcement, or too much Court TV, but I kept wanting to blurt out something to stop her from answering these questions ("don't answer that question! He might hunt you down and kill you!") And lastly, the one that led to an awkward exchange of their respective religious beliefs "where do you go to church?" (answer) She was raised in a charismatic, conservative, Bible based Christian environment and was homeschooled, while he has read the New Testament 8 times but doesn't attend church because the Bible says he doesn't have to, worships in his home, has some Christian friends, and finds the Bible uplifting...to which she kindly responded that it's one's relationship with God, not the Bible, that uplifts...it was like he was spewing out information intended to "prove" that he too was a Christian. From here, the conversation devolved. And while she was clearly trying to study, he kept on with the questions, and she never once said "enough already." She did mention a couple of times that she needed to get back to studying for her test tomorrow, to which he quieted for about 5 minutes before resuming again. I'm working from memory here, but the gist went as follows:

Him: Do you have a boyfriend?
Her: No, not right now.
Him: Why not?
Her: Maybe someday, but right now I'm busy with work and school.
Him: You're such a cute young petite thing. You should have a boyfriend.
Her: Thank you, that's a very nice thing to say.
Him: How old are you? Do you want to have kids? What are your beliefs on marriage? What will you do when you're done with school? Do you want to get married? And then back to the questions about her church...what church? what do they believe? yada, yada, yada
Her: (answer, answer, answer...every answer carefully worded so as to answer his questions honestly and without taking offense, engaging him in a real conversation about her beliefs, none of which he was really interested in and the conversation returned again to questions about relationships between men and women)
Him: This is the highlight of my weekend, talking to such a cute young petite 20-year old. You are so beautiful. Can I buy you a drink?
Her: That would be very nice. Thank you. (at which point, he went up to the counter and bribed the cute young barrista out of a cup of tea, for free)

Rather than shut him down with one word answers and returning to her textbooks at the very beginning, the way I would expect most co-eds would, with an attitude that she was too good to be bothered with an old man whose appearance was now starting to border on Predator, she completely engaged his conversation, accepted his compliments, praised him for the positive things that he said, ignored the creepy comments and even returned the favor of asking questions of him. Several times I wanted to jump in to rescue her from the now creepy old guy, but because she was handling herself so well, I let it play out.

By the end of the evening (and she did stay all evening rather than packing up early like I would have done, to retreat to a quiet spot), she had done little studying. As she packed up her bag, I fully expected him to trail her out and follow her home. I looked up at her as she walked past and whispered, "that was very gracious of you." She just smiled. Then I kept an eye on him to make sure nothing untoward happened. Contrary to my expectations, he did not trail her out but instead moved to a different table, closer to the barrista and started chatting it up with her. She too was very tolerant even though she was trying to work.

I wish I had it on tape. I know it doesn't play out on "screen" the way it did in real life, but I was truly wowed. It was very refreshing to see a young adult so wise and patient and mature. Maybe the world isn't in such a state of decay afterall. I would love to meet her parents.

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At 11:17 AM, February 26, 2008, Blogger Stephen said...

Hmm, weird to hear such openness these days. :)

At 11:29 AM, February 26, 2008, Blogger Gwynne said...

I agree. This guy crossed way over the line in my opinion. Several times I thought I should interject, but didn't. 8-}

At 10:28 AM, February 27, 2008, Blogger Jana B said...

That guy sounds harmless but DEFINATELY creepy. I think I would have excused myself and studied in a different location... like on the other side of town.

At 6:16 PM, February 27, 2008, Blogger Foo said...

She's a better person than I am. I nearly had to grab the wife and in-laws and leave the restaurant when some (lonely) drunk guy invited himself to sit down with us. The way he started off, making sure to ask and start using everyone's first names, I thought he was about to start some hard-sell proselytizing. Then, he rambled into a lengthy explanation of how he needed to get home and put together the bicycle he'd bought his daughter for Christmas – but seemed almost reluctant to actually head for the door to do so. After an uncomfortable (for me) 5 minutes that seemed much longer, he thanked us for letting him visit with us and wandered back to the bar.

My wife and her family didn't seem much bothered by the weird encounter, but I was not much less than a lot creeped out by the whole thing. I guess I'm not much of a random people person.

At 8:50 PM, February 27, 2008, Blogger Gwynne said...

Jana, me too! I would have been out of there in a heartbeat. And I would have had one eye over my shoulder.

Like you, Foo, I'm not a random people person. At all. I recognize this as a weakness on my part. She is definitely a better person than me.

At 5:33 AM, February 28, 2008, Blogger Rach said...

I think I would have been concerned and a little evasive. Good on her! That is grace in action!

At 6:56 AM, February 28, 2008, Blogger mis_nomer said...

I say, it is the home schooling..

At 7:52 AM, February 28, 2008, Blogger Janie said...

I'm impressed with that young woman...and you, too, for watching over her.


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