Recently I went to Pittsburgh to help my son get settled in before beginning his graduate work there. Even though I was very sad at the thought of my "baby" being so far from home, I'm very proud of him and also was a bit excited to visit a different city.
The first morning there, my husband and son were moving items into my son's apartment and I was at our hotel. Needing coffee, I headed down to the hotel lobby, where a nice counter was set up for guests to help themselves to coffee or tea.
I'd noticed an elderly man seated alone on one of the sofas in the lobby area, and he appeared to be watching me as I prepared my coffee. He made a general comment about the coffee, and I smiled and replied. Apparently the man couldn't hear what I'd said, because he scowled at me and in a somewhat harsh tone he said, "You don't have to whisper. You're not in church."
Taken aback by the man's tone--and his scowl--I continued smiling even as the words from Proverbs 15 popped into my mind.
A soft answer turneth away wrath.
Clasping my cup of coffee, I stepped closer to him, still smiling, and explained that until I've had my morning coffee, I usually speak softly.
I gradually noticed a change in the man's tone and expression, and for the next twenty-five minutes we had a lovely visit. It turns out he's widowed and had been out taking a walk, stopping in the hotel for a cup of coffee. He was obviously lonely, and needed someone to talk with. The Lord placed me in that situation and I'm so glad! This elderly man had lived in Pittsburgh his entire life and had so much fascinating information about the area he shared with me--including pointing out some scenic places we needed to visit while there. Before I returned to my hotel room, he stood, smiled at me, and told me I was a "kind Southern lady."
We never know what a stranger is going through, and often a person just needs a listening ear or a smile. I continue to pray for the man I met that day, and hope that maybe--just maybe--for that brief time we visited his loneliness was eased a bit.