I’d gone to Haywood 209 Café — a local diner-like establishment — to meet my dear friend Rebecca Lile, who is now a published author. (Yay!) We celebrated her birthday and enjoyed a leisure breakfast — catching up on one another’s lives, especially the release of her new book God’s Diner. She’d brought me several copies, per my request, to give as gifts this Christmas. I knew one was for Allie, but wasn’t certain to whom the others would go.

We stayed much longer than perhaps we’d planned — so wrapped up in good conversation. By the time we paid the bill and prepared to leave, I was praying our puppy Prancer hadn’t chewed down the Christmas tree. Visions of shredded ornaments and maybe a pillow or two clouded my mind and made me feel a tad anxious.

As we hugged, I noticed a woman who works at the diner preparing to leave. She’s someone my mom introduced me to — whose children attend the same school as Allie and who lives several miles from Haywood Café. Because she doesn’t own a reliable vehicle, we often see her walking to and from work. Occasionally, if we see her in time, we offer her a ride. It’s an easy joy.

As I put on my coat, I asked her, “Mary, do you need a ride home?”

Her face brightened, “Yes, ma’am — if it’s not too much trouble.”

Of course not. As I mentioned, I’d be the recipient of the joy she would bring. “No trouble at all,” I replied.

Rebecca and I hugged one more time. “Thanks for the books,” I said again. “I can’t wait to give Allie hers.” Then, “Happy birthday, friend.”

We each got in our respective cars, and I unlocked the door for Mary. I moved the copies of God’s Diner off the passenger seat, making room for her to sit down.

“Thanks again,” she said, fastening her seat belt.

“Oh, my pleasure,” I replied. “That was perfect timing. I didn’t intend to stay quite so long, but I guess God knew.”

“He always does,” Mary said with her sweet smile.

“True. My friend Rebecca and I had so much to catch up on. She recently published her first children’s book entitled God’s Diner.” I reached inside the bag for a copy. And then I understood.

Handing it to Mary, I continued, “It’s about God’s love for all His children. It takes place in a diner — much like Haywood 209. Would you like a copy?”

Mary looked thoughtfully at the book for a moment, and then she asked, “Would ya mind if I wrapped it up and gave it to the youngins’ for Christmas?”

“Oh, that’s perfect!” I exclaimed. Then, “I’m so thankful for God’s timing.” I knew, had I left when I’d originally intended, I’d have missed the gift of that moment.

“Me too,” Mary agreed, as she thumbed through the pages, skimming the book. “I try to tell everyone at the café to love those who come in, no matter who they be. The other day, a man came in, and somebody said somethin’ that was just plain mean. I told ’em, ‘You can’t judge people. You gotta treat everyone with kindness and love. That’s what God wants.’ They mighta been mad that I said that, but it’s the truth — as far as I can see, anyhow. We’s all brothers and sisters.”

I knew in that moment two things —

First, I’d left Haywood 209 Café right on time.
And I’d been nourished with more than just good food. This simple woman’s wise words fed my soul.

And I drove home, full up with JOY.