Reflections

When We Are 104

When I grow up am 104 years old, I want to be like Mr. Edward.

Honestly, I don’t know much about him. I met him only once, about a week ago, in McDonalds. We were both there for coffee, though our beverages of choice differed greatly. His aged, leathery hands gripped a small cup of steaming black coffee; my hands, youthful by comparison, clutched a large chocolate chip frappé with a shameful amount of whipped cream on top.

He was there with friends, and their conversation had the kind of comfortable flow that accompanies only longtime friends. Their repartee with the employees indicated great familiarity. Their little group did this same routine of coffee and conversation every day. I, on the other hand, was there alone, killing time before an appointment, my iPad open on the table in front of me as I checked the news.

After a few minutes, a slight uproar took over the dining room as one of the McDonalds employees made an announcement: “Y’all, did y’all hear that? This man right here – Mr. Edward – it’s his birthday today!”

Mr. Edward smiled a little, obviously not wanting the attention but kind of liking it, as one of his companions made the real announcement of the day: “He’s turning 104.”

Within seconds, a crowd of strangers united in an impromptu birthday celebration. We abandoned our tables, our food, our cups of coffee for a greater purpose: we were there to celebrate life. We gathered around his table, smiling and shaking hands, and joined in a rowdy chorus of “Happy Birthday.” We greeted the guest of honor, exchanged friendly smiles with one another, and returned to our own worlds at our tables.

As new customers came into the restaurant over the next few minutes, they had no idea that something remarkable had just happened. Echoes of joviality lingered in the air, with conversations passing between tables of new friends, but there was no more talk of Mr. Edward or his birthday. He – the cause of all the commotion – sat quietly sipping his coffee at a corner table.

And as I, along with the others in McDonalds that day, went about my business and on to my appointment, my mind stayed on Mr. Edward and the spur-of-the-moment celebration that had set the tone for my day. I’ve thought about him and that morning a lot over the past week or so, and today on my own birthday, I have one wish for myself and for all of us.

I want to be like Mr. Edward.

It doesn’t matter to me if I live to be 104 or not. Age is but a number, as they say, and as a wise someone said once, the number of years in your life are unimportant in light of the life in your years. So wanting to emulate Mr. Edward…..it has little to do with his longevity.

No, what I want is what he has. He has a certain *something* about him that brings people together. Without doing anything special, he united people with a sense of love and community that, yes, began with him but did not end with him. In just doing what he does every single day, his presence ushered in something special. It brought about something you don’t see every day. It made something happen that I’ve never experienced before. It created a love and a friendship and a selflessness and a fellowship that normally doesn’t just happen.

It wasn’t just caffeine and excitement in the air that day. I am certain it was the Spirit of God. And that feeling in the room as we sang and talked? It felt like the Kingdom of Heaven. Strangers…joined by love. That’s the kind of thing Jesus did.

And that’s still the kind of thing Jesus does today.

So when I am 104 – when we are 104 – I want that for us. I want my life – and I wish for your life – to be so different somehow that in just doing what we do, people experience who God is. That’s what Jesus does. That’s what I want to do, too.

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