when i first moved to los angeles i worked at a dive bar in valley village. my paychecks were always late, they bounced twice, and they still owe me money that i left knowing i would never see. i hated that place. it was gross and the people were angry and out for themselves. toward the end of my time there i would go into the smelly bathroom and get down on my knees and pray that God would help me get through the shift without falling into anger or worse, despair. i would read bible studies right before i went in and write verses down on my waitress pad to reread over and over when i felt shaky on that sticky barroom floor. i thought God wanted me there to be a light in dark place for a time. that gave way eventually to trying to prove to myself how good i could be, how strong i could be if i stayed put and waited for deliverance. the end of the story was i didn’t need to be there. i needed a job. i needed money. the end of story was i am good, always, without trying. i don’t need to test myself to know that. i do know that now. but something happened to me one day that i think of quite often when i think of grace and mercy. a man came in on a slow wednesday night and sat at the end of the bar right near where i was standing by the service station. the bar tender ignored him. the man was scruffy, but not dirty. to me he just looked like an old hippie hanging at the bar. he said hello and i greeted him and asked if i could get him something to drink. he said, “may i have a soda water with limes and lemons.” “absolutely,” i said and got behind the bar to take care of him. i served his soda water with extra limes and lemons and he asked if i minded if he took it to a booth to watch a bit of the game that was on one of the many televisions. “not at all,” i said and walked him and his drink to the booth he wanted. you don’t make money waiting tables off of soda waters, but when you work in a dive you meet all kinds of people with all kinds of stories and you don’t ask questions. sometimes you can feel an urging to stay quite and distant, and sometimes God gives you a nudge to smile, to be care full, not careful. he sat there for a while and i went about my slow work. in a bit i noticed he had come back up to the bar to sit again. i offered to refill his still almost full glass. he asked how much he owed me. i told him, “nothing. it’s on me.” he said, “no, i have to pay you.” he then explained to me he was in recovery and a part of his re-acclimation to living sober was coming to a bar and having self control, being able to sit and have a soda, to conduct himself well, to pay, and to leave and not want any more than that. now i don’t know that much about aa so i don’t know the steps and the challenges that one in this process endures. but here i was testing myself to see if i too could conduct myself well, to do my job and not make a story about my worth based on my current position. i was on my knees earlier in that bathroom asking for grace and mercy and this man was doing the same thing by asking for a simple, normal, everyday exchange. as a waitress i provided simply a service, but as a servant i provided grace. in my discomfort and weariness God asked me to unknowingly help someone looking for a bit of light, a bit of normalcy and redemption. i let him pay and he even tipped me. he thanked me for being so nice to him when all he ordered was soda water in a bar. had i huffed and puffed and worried about my tips that night i would have missed it. had i white knuckled my will to show myself how good i could be in a shit job i would have missed it. i would have missed a human being reaching out for grace and the filling of my cup that this patron (saint of dives) had, in turn, given me.
hi. i'm lesley, a southern girl living in los angeles with her good hearted husband and sweet pup. i'm on a journey to find God in every place big and small and to learn how to love like Jesus asked us to. life can be sour and sticky, but when those moments are truly walked thru they teach you about preserving the goodness, the sweet moments. it all works together if all is felt and given. so this is a come as you are kinda place, a place I am using as I grow from the sting and the sweetness of waiting. take your hat off and stay a while.