Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy (Matthew 5:7).
Anticipating a particularly hectic, 12 hour day of work with little time to eat, I paused my hurried morning commute for fast food. Since I like Subway tuna subs so much, I can eat them twice in a day, no complaints. So I pulled into a convenience store for a footlong tuna sub, half for lunch and half for dinner.
With morning coffee kicking in and eager to get to work, I strode into the convenience store on a mission and eyed the Subway in the back. But my heart sank a little when I saw a bedraggled fellow ahead of me staring blankly at the menu display.
Waiting my turn, I watched his stubbled face, sleepy eyes, and lazily hanging jaw, praying for him to come to life. He looked like he just threw on that t-shirt and jeans 12 minutes earlier. And he kept staring at that menu.
And kept staring.
And kept staring.
So my pulse resumed its rush hour rate, and my thoughts rebounded from the moment’s pause and rallied. With pursed lips, I worked hard to look indifferent, but my thoughts groused:
What happened to this guy?
Did the words, “Cold Cut Combo,” inspire a mystical trance?
Or is he trembling at the threshold of a decision between cheddar, American, and pepper jack cheese?
Did the greeting, “Welcome to Subway,” throw him into a reverie about the visit to Blimpie that could have been?
Or is he trying to decode the B.M.T in, “Italian B.M.T?”
Did he —
Then he suddenly turned, looked at me with gentle brown eyes and a lazy smirk and drawled, “Calm down.”
Stunned for a moment, I then burst out laughing. He chuckled. The young woman behind the glass waiting for his order kept her sleepy poker face.
He ordered an egg and bacon sandwich on white flatbread with mayonnaise and green peppers. As the Sandwich Artist prepared it, he told me about his morning:
“I woke up to my neighbor banging on my door. Her daughter missed the school bus, and her car was in the shop. So I jumped out of bed and took her little girl to school across town. I’m hungry.”
He was awake. I’m the one who needed to wake up and pay attention.
In the hectic traffic of everyday life, how easy to look at the guy at the Subway counter and assume he’s so sluggish and self-absorbed that he doesn’t care about me and my little concerns. In other words, how tragically easy it is to forget that he bears the image of God. And how clearly this stranger, this Subway saint, showed me that image from the moment that he turned and gently teased me into calming down.