Like clockwork, I went to his convenience store for coffee this morning. Eric was there as he is every dark and early morning of the overnight shift. I only spent a buck and change but today I got an earful in return.
It started with me sharing memories of the holiday I spent with my grandkids in Florida. He smiled and nodded as though he understood as he listened but I quickly found out that wasn’t so. I asked Eric his plans for this socially distanced holiday since we’ve been on a first name basis for over a year now. He said he has a grown daughter and granddaughter in L.A. he’d like to see but hasn’t in many years. No bad blood he’s aware of, just a disregard and disinterest in their very lonely dad and grandpa. He makes attempts to contact at any shred of an opportunity, sends cards, gifts and cash on every occasion without acknowledgement and he’s at a loss of what more to do but to accept the loneliness of the holiday despite how desperately he wants to share it with them.
I smiled because I did understand and with coffee in hand, I wished him Merry Christmas despite knowing it would not be, and the next customer walked in as I walked out.
There are lots of Erics out there at this time of year while the rest of us are rejoicing and rejoining with our loving families. For them, social distancing is nothing new. Today I left Eric a warm loaf of my famous blueberry banana nut bread on the counter with a card that read: “In today’s world, Eric, we’re all family and brother, I really enjoy spending a little part my mornings with you over a cup of coffee. Merry Christmas.”
If you want to leave a truly unforgettable mark on someone’s life this Christmas, be the family they need, listen and capture their stories and maybe an opportunity to merry their Christmas a little. They’re invisible and right in front of you every day, usually for just a buck and change.